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23andMe Suspends Health Interpretations

Direct-to-consumer genetic testing company 23andMe has stopped offering its health-related test to new customers, bringing it in line with a request from the US Food and Drug Administration.

In letter sent on Nov. 22, FDA said that 23andMe had not adequately responded to its concerns regarding the validity of their Personal Genome Service. The letter instructed 23andMe to "immediately discontinue marketing" the service until it receives authorization from the agency.

According to a post at the company's blog from CEO Anne Wojcicki, 23andMe customers who purchased their kits on or after Nov. 22 "will not have access to health-related results." They will, though, have access to ancestry information and their raw genetic data. Wojcicki notes that the customers may have access to the health interpretations in the future depending on FDA marketing authorization. Those customers are also being offered a refund.

Customers who purchased their kits before Nov. 22 will have access to all reports.

"We remain firmly committed to fulfilling our long-term mission to help people everywhere have access to their own genetic data and have the ability to use that information to improve their lives," a notice at the 23andMe site says.

In a letter appearing in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week, FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg wrote that the agency "supports the development of innovative tests." As an example, she pointed to its recent clearance of sequencing-based tests from Illumina.

She added that the agency also understands that some consumers do want to know more about their genomes and their genetic risk of disease, and that a DTC model would let consumers take an active role in their health.

"The agency's desire to review these particular tests is solely to ensure that they are safe, do what they claim to do and that the results are communicated in a way that a consumer can understand," Hamburg said.

In a statement, 23andMe's Wojcicki says that the company remains committed to its ethos of allowing people access to their genetic information. “Our goal is to work cooperatively with the FDA to provide that opportunity in a way that clearly demonstrates the benefit to people and the validity of the science that underlies the test," Wojcicki adds.

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