Who's on third? Regulation of third-party genetic interpretation services

Genet Med. 2020 Jan;22(1):4-11. doi: 10.1038/s41436-019-0627-6. Epub 2019 Aug 12.


In recent years, third-party genetic interpretation services have emerged to help individuals understand their raw genetic data obtained from researchers, clinicians, and direct-to-consumer genetic testing companies. The objectives of these services vary but include matching users to genetic relatives, selling customized diet and fitness plans, and providing health risk assessments. As these services proliferate, concerns are being raised about their accuracy, safety, and privacy practices. Thus far, US regulatory agencies have not taken an official position with respect to third-party genetic interpretation services, which has caused uncertainty regarding whether and how they might be regulated. To clarify this area, we analyzed their potential oversight by four US agencies that generally have been active in the regulation of genetic testing services and information: the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Civil Rights, and the Federal Trade Commission. We conclude that the scope of federal jurisdiction over third-party genetic interpretation services-while limited-could be appropriate at this time, subject to agency clarification and appropriate exercise of oversight.

Keywords: ELSI; direct-to-consumer screening and testing; genetic privacy; genetic services; health policy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, U.S.
  • Direct-To-Consumer Screening and Testing
  • Genetic Services / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Genetic Services / organization & administration*
  • Genetic Testing / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Humans
  • Risk Assessment
  • United States
  • United States Dept. of Health and Human Services
  • United States Federal Trade Commission
  • United States Food and Drug Administration