Monday, December 30, 2013

23andMe Offers Personalized Medicine Today

The article called "I Had My DNA Picture Taken, With Varying Results" in the New York Times is useless. The 23andMe $99 home test kit was compared to other kinds of tests: blood tests and test kits that have to be ordered and received by a doctor that effectively remove information from the realm of the tested. Worse, it's unhelpful to see the New York Times publishing such drivel in its influential news outlet. In an article to review a $99 dollar home test from 23andMe, why didn't it compare apples to apples instead of to oranges? Why not compare an equally-priced $99 home test kit, for instance, one from Ancestry DNA? Instead, the New York Times indulged in shoddy journalism, and by that I'm suggesting the article was a lazy, inaccurate, and narrow summary of the facts and I'm worried it will be taken seriously by everyone (patients, doctors, the F.D.A.) when it should have been published somewhere else. The New York Times is just one newspaper, albeit an influential one, but it could have done a whole lot better at checking the facts than it did.

Why didn't the New York Times ask me and other hundreds of thousands who have benefited from 23andMe without any other reasonable alternative? Did it take the effort to check its references of 23andMe by reading threads of glowing testimonials for the company, of which I could add another?

The real story that was missed is the story behind genetic testing: about how lazy and sloppy the F.D.A. has been for millions of American doctors who are unable to tell patients their true genetic risks because of agreements with genetic testing companies to keep results secret, as for example this linked article points out, written by an expert for the benefit of other doctors. That deceit isn't in anyone's best interest, and is a murky truth that has already drowned in the miry swamp of everyday medicine. 23andMe is helping mitigate this widespread spiral down into ignorance.

The last lines of that unhelpful article sum up the current state of health advice for most patients: "Step on a weigh scale." Full stop. Certainly, a weigh scale (and self-journaling, I might add) go far in helping patients achieve better health. But we knew all that already. Why settle for little when so much more is possible? Huge fountains of personalized medicine facts are (were until recently) inexpensively available from the 23andMe reports, authorized by a CLIA lab (also used by LabCorp), through the generosity and intelligence of the founders.

23andMe reports help us understand how to be healthy our entire lives. The unique and essential information from 23andMe is life-changing. Whether or not the 23andMe results agree with other company reports is trivial. A positive diagnosis would be worth double- or triple-checking. A website says that primary care doctors can understand 23andMe reports in ten minutes. 23andMe is the premier personalized medicine site democratically allowing patients personal insights within the ever-shifting quicksands of science. It's definitely a step in the appropriate direction.

I'm healthy enough I wasn't going to pay for a full genomic sequencing without any medical reason. As it turns out, I inherited medical conditions from both parents that aren't probably strong enough for medical intervention and that I was unaware of, but might need medical care at some time in the future. And I'm literate enough to understand the reports, which opened up a new direction for my own personal medical research. Just one person, I remain grateful to thoroughness of the plethora of information and scientific articles about studies at 23andMe.

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