Rite Aid locations in three West Coast states offer OTC genetic testing

CAMP HILL, Pa. Need to know what’s in your genetic code? Rite Aid can help.

Genetic testing is now available at the Rite Aid stores in California, Oregon and Washington, the New York Times has reported.

A company called Sorenson Genomics has started selling a paternity test kit in the chain’s stores on the West Coast. Reportedly, this is the first time a DNA test is being sold through a major pharmacy chain.

The infiltration of DNA testing into the pharmacy is another in the spread of genetic testing directly to consumers. Many genetic tests are already available directly to consumers through the Internet.

But Sorenson, whose slogan is “For questions only DNA can answer”, emphasizes the importance of satisfying such curiosities or medical issues that need to be addressed right away. “There is a curiosity and a need to know that can be provided discreetly, conveniently and affordably at retail,” said Douglas Fogg, chief operating officer of Sorenson Genomics.

The test, sold under the brand name Identigene, has a suggested list price of $29.99, though a Times reporter purchased one at a Rite Aid in Santa Monica, Calif., for $19.99. There is an additional laboratory fee of $119 to have the samples analyzed.

Genetic testing, some experts argue, may incomprehensible to consumers who have not received genetic counseling.  ”Just because something’s available does not mean it’s safe or effective or worth your money,” said Kathy Hudson, director of the Genetics and Public Policy Center at Johns Hopkins University.

Hudson added that most genetic tests available directly to consumers had not been reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration.

Still, drugstores already sell various non-DNA diagnostic tests, including those for pregnancy, drug use, cholesterol, blood sugar and H.I.V. When some of these were introduced there was also controversy about whether consumers could perform the tests or understand the results themselves, the Times said.

The results of a paternity test, unlike some of the medical tests, are pretty easy to understand. Sorenson said the test was designed for peace of mind, and that the results would probably not stand up in court because questions could be raised about whose samples were submitted.

The kit advises people wanting to test for legal purposes to call the company and set up a chain of custody for the samples, which would cost an additional $200.

Sorenson’s Fogg said the company sells about 1,500 to 2,000 paternity tests per month through the Internet and expressed hope to increase that greatly through sales at drugstores. Ashley Flower, a spokeswoman for Rite Aid, would not comment other than to confirm that the kit was being sold in the three West Coast states.

Sorenson, which is bankrolled by a medical device entrepreneur, James LeVoy Sorenson, also offers ancestry testing. Those tests, however, may not be offered at Rite Aid.