Testing Your Genes, Right at the Drugstore

Editor's note: Since this story aired, Walgreens has postponed its plans to sell an over-the counter genetic test. To read more from our partner WebMD, click here.

At Pathway Genomics in San Diego, technicians are trying to tell the future, creating personal DNA reports for customers, reports CBS News correspondent Ben Tracy.

"We will give you information about your health and really we will help you make better lifestyle choices," said Jim Woodman with Pathway Genomics.

In a controversial move, the company's genetic tests will now be sold in 6,500 Walgreens stores as of Friday.

The company said the test can determine health risks for as many as 72 genetic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, breast cancer and Alzheimer's. The company claims its tests are 99.9 percent accurate, but that's not been independently confirmed.

Here's how it works: a customer deposits their saliva in a plastic vial. The vial is sent back to the company and the customer's genetic code is mapped. The results are then posted on a secure website the customer accesses with a password.

"I'd certainly avail myself to it because I'd like to know what I'm predisposed to," said Garry Scarff of West Hollywood, Calif.

However, the FDA has not approved the test and says by selling it in drugstores the company would "be putting themselves in legal jeopardy."

The kit costs $20 but you can pay up to $249 depending on how much you want to know - from how you might react to medications to your risks of passing diseases, such as cystic fibrosis, on to your children.

Critics say picking up a genetic test should not be as simple as grabbing toothpaste and band-aids. And scientists say the link between our DNA and many diseases is still largely unknown. The fear is that the test results could cause some people to overreact or others may forgo tests such as mammograms if the results don't show an increased risk of breast cancer.

"Knowledge is powerful but misunderstood knowledge can be powerfully bad," said Hank Greeley, the director of Stanford University's Center for Law and the Biosciences

Yet our desire to know what could be ahead of us is apparently also in our genes.
  • Ben Tracy

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