The Internet currently enables unprecedented ease of access for direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic testing, with saliva collection kits posted directly to consumer homes from anywhere in the world. This poses new challenges for local jurisdictions in regulating genetic testing, traditionally a tightly-regulated industry. Some Internet-based genetic tests have the capacity to cause significant confusion or harm to consumers who are unaware of the risks or potential variability in quality. The emergence of some online products of questionable content, unsupported by adequate scientific evidence, is a cause for concern. Proliferation of such products in the absence of regulation has the potential to damage public trust in accredited and established clinical genetic testing during a critical period of evidence generation for genomics. Here, we explore the challenges arising from the emergence of Internet-based DTC genetic testing. In particular, there are challenges in regulating unaccredited or potentially harmful Internet-based DTC genetic testing products. In Australia, challenges exist for the Therapeutic Goods Administration, which oversees regulation of the genetic testing sector. Concerns and challenges faced in Australia are likely to reflect those of other comparable non-US jurisdictions. Here, we summarize current Australian regulation, highlight concerns, and offer recommendations on how Australia and other comparable jurisdictions might be more proactive in addressing this emerging public health issue.
- direct-to-consumer genetic testing
- public health genomics
- Therapeutic Goods Administration