April 21, 2024

Americans wary of personalised medicine

Fear of losing jobs or medical benefits

Ah! the golden age of personalised medicine, when medicines will be tailored
to your unique genetic make-up. Well, the time has come, and the New York
Times reports that many consumers are too scared to use it. "It’s pretty
clear that the public is afraid of taking advantage of genetic testing," says
Francis S. Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute at
the National Institutes of Health. "If that continues, the future of medicine
that we would all like to see happen stands the chance of being dead on

Although health insurance companies deny that they will discriminate against
anyone on the basis of genetics, Americans do not believe them. As a
consequence, they refuse to take tests which could spot whether they are at risk
of ailments like breast cancer or colon cancer, or they pay for mail-order tests
out of their own pocket. The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, which
passed the House of Representatives last year, would ban the use of genetic
information to deny benefits or raise premiums. But this still has not passed
through the Senate. Doctors say that the Act would allay the anxiety of patients
who fear that the loss of their job or denial of medical treatment because of
pre-existing conditions. Linda Vahdat, who runs a breast cancer research program
in New York, estimates that 20% of her patients pay for tests in cash to avoid
alerting insurance companies. ~ New York Times, Feb 24