23andMe vs. the FDA in less than 4 minutes


Does anyone know if there’s a UK equivalent of 23andme?

23andme ships to the UK.

Yes, I believe there’s a company out there that will translate Cockney Rhyming Slang for a modest fee, so a person can understand how they’ve just been insulted and make an informed decision with regard to their response.


I hope that Dick Van Dyke is their spokesperson, ya manky bint.

I just checked and it does say they do, however it sounds a bit fiddly and they mention a mysterious international shipping cost, without saying what the cost is (I imagine it’s not cheap either, as it includes customs docs and return shipping).

The technology they use doesn’t seem to be owned by them, so I’m hoping there’s a local business offering the same service…

Even with a nebulous international shipping charge, I’d be very surprised if another company could provide this service at a lower price. 23andme is massively subsidizing the actual cost of their genetic sequencing service in the hopes of amassing the world’s largest genetic database. They hope to recoup the subsidy by licensing the (anonymized) data to researchers.

I think it’s completely valid to require some kind of certification for 23andme. If people are going to lop off their breasts after reading a report, someone should make sure that the test is accurate and that the diagnosis is presented in a way that is consistent with the science.


Ah, fair point.

Not at all complicated - shipping is $79.95, so it costs around £120 all in, which I don’t consider bad value. The spit kit is delivered by DHL Express (48hr service), and includes a pre-paid DHL envelope to return via the same service.

Pricey shipping, but yea, as a total cost I suppose it would be hard to beat.

Don’t suppose I can get the test done on the NHS as I think you need an actual reason for them to test you other than curiosity :slight_smile:

The way I see this going is that the feds won’t want us to be able to access information about our own genomes directly, but will want the insurance companies to have access to it. As I understand it, they only sequence certain portions of the DNA, and provide analyses. It might be a harder model for the feds to stick their fingers in if you could just get a sequence of your entire genome (pricier, but not prohibitively expensive at this point) which you could argue is simply for your information, and have someone release open source software that automatically does some of the data analysis, which would be a free speech issue if they tried to censor it. (Not that that would likely stop the FDA, but there’s a lot more legal and social leverage behind that position.)

I’ve heard this argument, and am unconvinced. It;s hard to imagine that the 23 and Me test would be the direct line to mastectomy. I imagine that your doctor would run their own tests to make sure the procedure is valid, and (here, more of a hope), give some counseling.

The big danger I see is innumeracy. Having this gene triples your chances of getting Cancer X. Most folks will freak out upon hearing that, and never ask the follow-up like, 3 x 30%? or 3 x 0.001%?

And, how do those odds interact with the odds that a given test has some percentage chance of giving a false positive? This part requires FDA labeling, I would say, but how that info is used in making decisions, that’s the tricky bit.

At some point “protecting” people becomes really just a way of protecting corporate profit models and political power bases. A free human gets to choose what to believe, but slaves are only told what their overseers think they should know “for their own good.”

Personally, I am not willing to accept the FDA’s judgement of what is “accurate” or “consistent with science” if that means some mysterious unelected government watchmen are going to prevent me from receiving information. And if that means some idiot chooses to self-mutilate, so be it; I will not prevent that person’s free expression of their own belief “for their own good”.

I’d expect common sense to dictate that you’d at least get two different test before making that decision…

I think we pay VAT and possibly customs duty on the kit when it’s sent from USA to Blighty. Probably you have to mark the returning spit kit ‘no commercial value’ so that it doesn’t get held up during the return leg - you don’t want your spit degrading or your cheek cell DNA being digested by bacteria.

Recommendation: Move offshore and start accepting Bitcoin. We’re witnessing the disruption of national governments all around us.

The FDA had a problem with the company’s marketing of the product because, as Consumerist put it, the company decided to say that it’s the “‘first step in prevention’ that enables users to ‘take steps toward mitigating serious diseases’ like diabetes, coronary heart disease, and breast cancer.” 23andMe also submitted applications at one point to the FDA for review and then never actually followed through on providing the requested follow-up information. I find it boggling that people are willing to justify this behavior just because they like the product. I doubt people would be jumping up to argue that the FDA is just protecting the insurance companies’ interests because we should just be able to do all our own blood and urine tests at home, even if they saw a similar ad to 23andMe’s for at home labwork. Fun Fact: the FDA approves home drug tests and you can still take them - they just have to be tested and approved first. Otherwise, what would stop people from creating their own pseudo-scientific tests and promising to diagnose people with illnesses for profit?

Additionally, while people may not immediately go and have a mastectomy due to a false-positive BRCA result, they may wind up spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on secondary testing, not to mention the psychological toll.

I also don’t understand why everyone is assuming that a billionaire’s wife must be totally innocent and pure of heart and the FDA must be full of heartlessly conniving evil monsters.


I totally agree with your post, but can I point out that Anne Wojcicki is quite rich and successful in her own right? She’s not just a trophy wife.

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irony tag. Because there was a simple yet heartfelt cartoon that explained things in simple terms. An edutizement. Now we are all informed enough to be little advocates for a situation we didn’t know about until yesterday. end irony tag

Seriously though is is it sophistication to see a simplified cartoon like the one above and know there must be more to the story that what has been disclosed in the cartoon?