The UK's human genetics advisory body is expected to endorse a self-regulating approach for companies selling over-the-counter genetic tests. The Human Genetics Commission (HGC) will be discussing its recent report on genetic tests sold directly to the public at its next meeting, to be held in London this Wednesday. The report, which follows a public consultation on the issues surrounding such tests, is thought to recommend a voluntary code of conduct for the industry, reports the Times newspaper.
New genetic tests that claim to predict a person's risk of future illnesses such as osteoporosis, heart disease and some cancers have provoked strong criticism following their launch in the UK. Scientists and pressure groups have criticised the tests provided by US firm Genovations and others, saying they do not provide any useful information, and could make people unnecessarily worried about their future health. 'Selling unregulated genetic tests is the marketing of fear' said Helen Wallace, of Genewatch UK, which favours legal restrictions on the type of tests that can be sold to the public. David King, of Human Genetics Alert, has also called for 'a strong regulatory regime to prevent unethical or inappropriate tests' being sold.
British firm Sciona, which markets a 'Body Benefits' genetic test aimed at providing nutritional and general health advice, welcomed the HGC's recommendations. Chairman Matthew Bowcock said he thought a code of conduct was needed, but a strict legal regime was not.