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Skepticism is one key to reporting on pharmacogenetic tests

Beth Daley

The area of pharmacogenetics, or how genes affect a person's response to drugs, is a fast-growing commercial segment of genetics. The basic science is sound and decades old. It involves identifying how a patient responds to medicine, and so helps physicians avoid bad reactions and figure out what dose is best for each individual. Today, clinical laboratories are selling hundreds of these tests to patients and doctors without substantive trials, independent validation or solid proof that they actually are accurate or even useful to patients. Among the fast-growing areas for these tests are psychiatry and in assessing how patients respond to opioids.

When writing about how these tests work, skepticism is in order. These tests are highly complex and their algorithms are proprietary. Reporter Beth Daley offers advice on what to look for in your reporting.

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