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SACGHS Task Force Sees Consumer Genomics as 'Number One Priority'

WASHINGTON, DC (GenomeWeb News) – A US Department of Health and Human Services committee plans to vote in December on the recommendations it will supply HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt concerning the state of genomics in the US, particularly concerning consumer genetic testing and pharmacogenomics.
 
Paul Wise, who chairs the Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Genetics, Health, and Society’s Priority Setting Task Force, told members of the committee in Washington, DC, today that the group will likely focus on standards to monitor direct-to-consumer genetic testing because committee members and others, through a public comment period last month, had identified this as the top priority.
 
Wise said today that after reviewing the various comments, the task force has identified 73 total subjects it will consider. He said that consumer genetic testing was mentioned most overall as “the number one priority” and that it received the most interest from both expert and public comments. 
 
Wise expects the task force to winnow this large number of issues down to several cluster areas on which it will vote. Between now and November, the task force will gather information about the issues, develop issue briefs, and then submit those materials to the committee.
 
The task force’s vote will come after November, when the US will have a new president-elect that could potentially replace Secretary Leavitt soon after the SACGHS receives the task force’s priorities.
 
Wise acknowledged that it is possible that the committee may be developing its recommendations for the secretary in a different political environment, but he did not elaborate on whether he views that as an important concern for the task force.
 
The specific clusters the task force will look into in the coming months include the need to develop more evidence for personalized medicine; training and education of health professionals in genetics and genomics; evidence-based guidelines for genetic technologies; coverage and reimbursement for genetic services; Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement for DNA tests; and genetics and health disparities among minorities.
 
Wise said that several factors will influence the issues the task force sets as priorities as it advises the committee. Among those are the “urgency and national importance of the issue,” the extent to which the federal government has jurisdiction or authority over the issue, and the “need for federal guidance or regulation over the issue.”

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