Medical tests in the privacy of your own home

A San Francisco-based testing company is currently offering genetic testing, for a predisposition to cystic fibrosis, blood clotting, iron overload and a heightened risk for lung and liver diseases; prices ranging from $199 to $380.

The selling of prescription drugs directly to consumers troubles many medical professionals and now some medical marketing is giving rise to concern. A number of online companies are marketing tests that can show predisposition to any number of maladies, from breast cancer to blood clotting. The tests are cheap, easy to administer, often just a cotton swab inside the cheek, and the results are available online.

"We are empowering patients with knowledge," said Ryan Phelan, who recently launched the company DNA Direct.

Also the test results are not recorded on official medical histories, keeping sensitive information away from insurance companies.

This week, in a small but dramatic move, DNA Direct will begin offering two popular breast cancer tests created and conducted by Myriad Genetics, the most visible player in the field of "predictive medicine."

The tests will cost roughly $300 each. Myriad insists its deal with the company is no different from its traditional arrangements because DNA Direct employs doctors and genetic counselors to advise its customers. Myriad still requires a doctor's order and a signed "informed consent" form for each test.

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