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January 1, 2003

Direct-to-Consumer Advertising of Genetic Testing

JAMA. 2003;289(1):45-46. doi:10.1001/jama.289.1.45-a

To the Editor: Ms Gollust and colleagues1 provide evidence that direct-to-consumer marketing of genetic information can mislead consumers and leave them susceptible to manipulation.

Direct-to-consumer advertising, however, has proven to be effective in selected settings, and a blanket proscription of this potentially useful tool is not warranted. For example, the Dor Yesharim program of premarital screening has functioned within the Jewish Orthodox community for more than 2 decades.2 This anonymous testing program was designed by community activists and has incorporated unique cultural factors that have enabled it to screen more than 100 000 participants since 1977. Following partner selection by their families, young men and women in their teens or early twenties are tested and assigned a number. Neither they, their prospective partners, nor the program staff are given specific results of the 8 most common disorders prevalent in this population; instead, the numbers are matched at a central location resulting in a recommendation of compatible or noncompatible early in the matching or dating process. The couple may then either seek genetic counseling or look for different partners.

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