by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted September 11, 2007 in DNA Testing
Myriad Genetics is coming up against criticism for their new advertising campaign promoting the BRACAnalysis direct-to-consumer genetic test for breast and ovarian cancer genes: BRCA1 and BRCA2. The ads are set to run this week in New York, Hartford, Boston and Providence, R.I. Some experts are worried that consumers will be unnecessarily alarmed and that BRCA testing isn’t meant for general population screening, especially because only 10% of women with breast or ovarian cancer are believed to have inherited genetic risk factors. Connecticut attorney general, Richard Blumenthal, has already begun an investigation into Myriad’s claims for the test to assess fairness and accurate representation.
Back in March 2004, the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) ran a workshop scrutinizing direct to consumer advertising of genetic tests with extensive discussion of Myriad’s marketing of BRACAnalysis. Myriad’s pilot advertising trials five years ago showed that commercials increased public interest and sales of the genetic test. At that time it was determined that both consumers and physicians needed more information about the genetics of breast cancer and the utility of the test. Also, despite greater interest in the test, there were not enough appointments available for patients to see a genetic counselor. The average wait to see a genetic counselor at Kaiser was 8 months and 50% of those who were approved for a risk assessment never received a BRCA test.
Clearly, the situation is different today. Companies like the one I work for, DNA Direct, now offer BRCA testing directly to consumers via our website with access to and support from certified genetic counselors. At-risk individuals who decide they need a BRCA test after researching the extensive information on the DNA Direct website can order a test without the wait. And in many cases, their insurance companies will still cover it. Of course, going the direct-to-consumer route also means you can choose not to disclose your BRCA status to your insurance company if you don’t want to.
Here are some of the recommendations that resulted from the NHGRI direct-to-consumer genetic tests and advertising workshop:
How to better convey accurate information to the public, including expected benefits and potential harms of learning genetic information; what to expect from the process itself; criteria or points to address through advertisements.
What messages within the advertisements are remembered/understood by consumers? By providers?
Are appropriate candidates for the genetic test responding to these messages?
What information are consumers looking for from DTC ads in general? Is this different in the realm of genetics?
Are there significant distinctions between the advertising practices and the impact of ads for genetic vs. non-genetic diagnostic tests?
Dr. Gregory C. Critchfield, president of Myriadâ€™s genetic testing business, said in the New York Times:
What we are doing is raising public awareness so they will have a conversation with their health care providers. Those individuals, if they are tested and identified, can avail themselves of means to reduce the risk of cancer.
I know I’m not the only person who thinks that advertising isn’t always evil. Advertising serves to bring new products to our attention and to stimulate interest as well as the desire for more information. In the case of genetics and genetic testing, I would venture to say that all of us need to learn more, not less. And I doubt that most people are so easily persuaded by ads nowadays given our culture of total commercial saturation.
For me, knowing that there are options out there is a good thing. I may not be signing up for genetic testing now, but I still want to be prepared for the future. Hopefully, advertising campaigns that bring genetics into the public eye will prepare more people for the genome revolution that is upon us.
Update: For more on BRCA genetic testing, please see these earlier posts at Eye on DNA.
- What happens after a positive breast and ovarian (BRCA) genetic test?
- Perceptions of Genetic Testing
- BRCA Genetic Testing for Women without a Family History of Breast Cancer
DNA Videos: Genetic Testing on NBC Nightly News...
Just a Little Scared of Genetic Testing...
Flood of DNA...
BRCA Gene Mutation Carriers Worry About Quality of Life...
The United States Genetic Diagnostics Market...
Intermediary Genetic Testing Companies Face Less Regulation...
Eye on DNA Headlines for 30 April 2008...
Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.
Search Eye on DNA
- Genetic Genealogy on Faces of America
- DNA Network Tweet Cloud
- Genetics = Real Science
- Larry David’s DNA Test
- Lopez Tonight First Late-Night Show to Offer DNA Testing
- American Genes Don’t Exist
- Knowledge about Genetic Risk is Power or is it Fear?
- Murderer Gets Reduced Sentence Because His Genes Made Him Do It
- Video: Knome’s Ari Kiirikki Speaks with Medgadget
- DNA Toys: Ben 10 and Digimon Digivice
- 100 Facts About DNA
- Salaries for Jobs in Genetics
- Fetal Gender DNA Tests Answer Common Pregnancy Question...Or Not
- How To Determine Paternity Without A DNA Test
- What does DNA mean to you?
- Eye on DNA Interview: Dr. Tzung-Fu Hsieh of RedTracer DNA Test for the Red Hair Gene, MC1R
- Books About DNA: The Crime of Reason by Robert B. Laughlin
- Genetically Modified Organisms Bring in the Cash
- Navigenics Introduces Physician Portal and Annual Insight Service
- People Who’ve Had Their Genomes Sequenced
09/29/2009 07:03 am
- Larry David’s DNA Test
11/17/2009 02:52 am
- 23andMe DNA Tests for $399, Down From $999
09/10/2008 04:33 am
- Crazy Genetic Marketing Ideas
07/05/2008 09:14 pm
- Parenting Children Using Genetic Tests
05/18/2009 02:09 am
- Business of DNA
- DNA @ Google Answers
- DNA and Disease
- DNA and Genealogy
- DNA and the Law
- DNA Around the World
- DNA Fun
- DNA in General
- DNA Inventions and Gadgets
- DNA Lab Talk
- DNA Podcasts and Videos
- DNA Quotes and Excerpts
- DNA Testing
- Gene Therapy
- Genetic Engineering
- Genetically Modified Foods and Organisms
- Jobs Involving DNA
- Personalities with DNA
- Polls About DNA
- January 2010
- November 2009
- October 2009
- September 2009
- August 2009
- July 2009
- June 2009
- March 2009
- February 2009
- January 2009
- December 2008
- November 2008
- October 2008
- September 2008
- August 2008
- July 2008
- June 2008
- May 2008
- April 2008
- March 2008
- February 2008
- January 2008
- December 2007
- November 2007
- October 2007
- September 2007
- August 2007
- July 2007
- June 2007
- May 2007
- April 2007
- Highlight HEALTH
- Biotech Blog
- Herpes Blog
- Genome Boy
- The Tree of Life
- Genome Technology Online
- Adventures in Ethics and Science