As Consumer DNA Testing Grows, Two States Resist via MIT Technology Review

6 November 2017

Maryland and New York still restrict who can order genetic tests and how companies can market them.

Earlier this month, more than 55,000 football fans were expected to walk through the gates of M&T Bank Stadium to watch a Baltimore Ravens game and receive a giveaway. They wouldn’t be getting a T-shirt or beer koozie, though. Instead, fans were promised a free DNA test from Boston-based startup Orig3n.

Patrons would have been offered a free test for four genetic variants related to health and fitness. But the event was postponed after state officials raised questions about whether the company could promote its DNA tests in Maryland.

Orig3n is one of a slew of new companies that promise to provide personalized health information on your skin, athletic ability, diet, intelligence, and other traits based on your genetic makeup.

Known as direct-to-consumer genetic tests, they are available at the click of a mouse for $200 or less. You spit into a vial or swab your cheek and send your saliva through the mail, no prescription sign-off from your physician required. But two states—Maryland and New York—are holding out against these tests.

Maryland state law allows only doctors or other authorized health-care practitioners to order lab tests, with a few exceptions. Consumers can directly purchase tests that have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as “over-the-counter” devices. Orig3n has not received that designation.

Maryland also doesn’t allow lab tests to be directly marketed to consumers, only to physicians, hospitals, and laboratories.

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