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Biotech Australia Science

Consumer Genetic Testing Available In Australia 88

Posted by samzenpus
from the giant-book-that's-hidden-inside-you dept.
Megaport writes "After the banning of direct-to-consumer genetic testing in Australia last July, new rules were imposed to require a physician to be involved in the process. Now a new Australian start-up, Lumigenix, has launched a genome decoding service for Australian (and global) consumers that meets the new regulatory requirements. Their products include genetic testing for health and ancestry information. The Australian government is planning to revisit the issue later this year and further regulation is anticipated in response to the emergence of direct-to-consumer genetic services."
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Consumer Genetic Testing Available In Australia

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  • So how long will it be before employers require this testing to screen applicants out for learning disabilities, probabilities of alcoholism/addiction, and probability of getting cancer?

    • Re:Employers (Score:4, Insightful)

      by laughingcoyote (762272) <barghesthowl AT excite DOT com> on Monday January 10, 2011 @03:37AM (#34820664) Journal

      Hrm. They made one of those things, called a "law", that's the initial subject of this article. I wonder if the Australian government could make another one of these "law" things to prohibit exactly that type of abuse and specify that no one is permitted to request that someone get genetic test results or favor those who provide them? Seems it'd be a good use for such a thing.

      • Re:Employers (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Opportunist (166417) on Monday January 10, 2011 @04:14AM (#34820788)

        Oh, we from $big_insurance have no problem with that, the law forbids us to require a gene test before insuring you. That's certainly no problem for us and we will comply with that law fully. We will insure you any time even without a genetic test for a fee of $fee_suitable_for_ultra_high_risk_people. Of course, if you voluntarily provide a gene test, we might offer discounts.

        We certainly and wholeheartedly welcome this law. If we'd be allowed to require such a test, we might have to pay for it instead of you.

        Same way around for employing. We can't require a gene test from you, but without we only employ you at minimum wage. For more, bring a gene test result (all voluntary, of course). Also, be prepared to be the first person fired if you don't, after all, everyone else did (since they didn't want to work for minimum pennies), so you must have some sort of genetic disorder and we're probably better off without you.

        Seriously, though. Money talks, and often it talks its way out of legal corners. If a company wants to do something it is not allowed, they sure find a way to make it "interesting" to comply with their wishes.

        • Re:Employers (Score:4, Insightful)

          by zblack_eagle (971870) on Monday January 10, 2011 @04:49AM (#34820884)

          Too bad we have universal healthcare here in Australia. Private health insurance is generally such bad value that it needs a 30% government rebate and the 1% extra tax if your income is above a certain threshhold if you don't get private coverage to make it somewhat 'competitive'.

          • So do we, so? Your rates will simply go up if you're a "high risk person". You're a smoker, a woman, and your genetic profile shows that you have a disposition for adiposis and addictions, so your rates go up from 7% of your income to 38%.

            Just because it ain't private doesn't mean that it can't "adjust" to make it "fair for everyone".

        • by Cimexus (1355033)

          Um what? This has no relevance to Australia, since:

          a) we have public universal single-payer healthcare; and

          b) even if you choose to have private health insurance, it has nothing, whatsoever, to do with your employer. You choose a company and buy the insurance, just like it was house insurance or car insurance. You can do it over the phone in a few minutes, no tests required.

          • So do we on the other end of the globe. But some parties here are already pondering aloud to increase the insurance premium for people with higher "personal risk" (smokers, fat people, diabetics...), and you think it would be unthinkable that they will easily expand that to people with "high risk" genetic makeup?

            Just a few more percent of your salary for insurance, after all, it's more likely that you get sick...

            • But some parties here are already pondering aloud to increase the insurance premium for people with higher "personal risk" (smokers, fat people, diabetics...)

              We don't have that problem here. This is not because of anti-discriminatory laws. This is because health insurance of any kind is not required. There is no government-mandated health insurance, health care is provided to our citizens as a basic service at low cost to the user.

              As far as high risk people go, we try to use preventative and education methods of reducing such risk. Excise on tobacco and alcohol products, advertisements on the effects of consumption, etc.

              We don't have the same 'fear' of socialism

              • Fear of socialism? Our socialist party has (still) member numbers the USSR communist party was jealous of! And they're still the leading party, albeit with severely reduced election results (from about 50% during up to the 1990s to about 30% today).

                It's not a fear of socialism. More, it's greed and envy. Why should he get something that I don't get? It seems people got so used to a "social market economy" (that's what our system has been called) that they can't think it's possible their very OWN social serv

        • If you want to see how this plays out, just watch Gattaca [imdb.com]. This movie is scarily prophetic.

    • A better question is- do the results of voluntary genetic testing fall under the ' full disclosure' clauses in your typical health insurance policy? You know. The clauses under which you agree to disclose anything that you, or a generic but legally 'reasonable' version of you might have some bearing on your policy.

      Not so much of an issue in Oz, where private health insurance works very differently than in the US. Might be more of a concern for those dwelling across the Pacific...

      • Re:Employers (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) on Monday January 10, 2011 @03:55AM (#34820716) Homepage Journal

        The US has a law on the subject, forbidding insurers to take your genetic information into account:
        http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/statutes/gina.cfm [eeoc.gov]

        • by Rich0 (548339)

          Genetic testing isn't quite to the point where it is disruptive yet. However, it will get there most likely.

          Once it does, laws like this will be absolutely useless. There are only two stable insurance scenarios in a world where genetic testing accurately predicts insurance risk:

          1. Universal coverage - everybody gets the same insurance for around the same rate and payment is mandatory (taxes, mandatory premiums, whatever - with penalties/enforcement sufficient to make almost everybody pay for it). This c

          • There are only two stable insurance scenarios in a world where genetic testing accurately predicts insurance risk:

            One problem: your case #1 isn't insurance at all, but rather (false) "charity" for those with high risk. Case #2, on the other hand, is basically the definition of insurance. So there is really only one stable scenario which actually counts as insurance, and that scenario is the one where cost corresponds to risk.

            Somebody at risk for cancer in their 50s might have cheap insurance until they are 40, and then can't afford it.

            Solution: If you know you are likely to develop cancer in your 50s, then set aside the savings from your cheap (pre-40s) insurance and be prepared.

            Some children might have astronomical premiums before they are even born.

            Solution: Parents take out insurance on the child

            • by Rich0 (548339)

              your case #1 isn't insurance at all, but rather (false) "charity" for those with high risk

              Insurance is basically an agreement of a bunch of people to share a single risk pool. I agree that #1 stretches this because the agreement part is by majority rule and not individual consent.

              However, the basic principle of insurance is that individuals share their risks. That is met in #1.

              Now, #1 is inherently socialistic, especially if combined with a progressive premium structure (such as premiums coming from incom

              • Insurance is basically an agreement of a bunch of people to share a single risk pool.

                No, insurance is when you enter into an agreement to trade (low probability, high cost) for (high probability, low cost). Aside from overhead, the risk (i.e. probability * cost) remains unchanged. It is true that having a pool of similar (but independent!) insurance risks makes it much easier to offer insurance without courting bankruptcy, since the actual costs tend to average out, but the pool itself is not in any way mandatory, and is really irrelevant from the insured's point-of-view.

                That isn't a completely horrible scenario, since it at least sounds feasible. However, it is a heck of a future to look forward to, and it will be a chain around your neck all your life saving up to it.

                As opposed to not k

                • by Rich0 (548339)

                  I am not really suggesting anything new so far as the child's financial and medical dependence on its parents is concerned.

                  Actually, you are. Most states have insurance programs for children, so that the care of children is not impacted by the financial status of their parents. This coverage terminates at adulthood, since the expectation is that everybody should be able to provide for themselves at this point. That expectation probably would not hold in a society where insurance is unattainable by many,

                  • I am not really suggesting anything new so far as the child's financial and medical dependence on its parents is concerned.

                    Actually, you are. Most states have insurance programs for children, so that the care of children is not impacted by the financial status of their parents.

                    Actually, I'm not. It is these pseudo-charity programs which are new, and even they only exist in certain areas. For all of human history, including the present in many areas, children have depended on their parents for their financial and medical well-being.

                    Hey, I never said that it was fair, or that I'd even vote this way. ... However, reality is the world we live in, and given a choice between my scenarios #1 and #2, I think that society is going to be more likely to choose #1. ... I'd be the last person to take a dime of yours.

                    My apologies. I suppose I read your comment as being slanted in favor of #1, but in retrospect you never did say outright that you favored that approach. I have to admit that I tend to agree with your projection (unfortunately), though that may just be

    • That's what you're afraid of? For real?

      Step up a notch. How about insurances wanting a genetic check before they insure you? Based on flimsy, at best, "evidence" that this or that gene has a disposition towards causing this or that disease? Or let's take a step into a more orwellian society and have them offer "approved" genetic material for your next offspring so they get insured more cheaply.

      • Please, no more steps toward Orwellian society! (Or should I say: Another step or two and you'll pass it right by!)
      • Re:Employers (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Zouden (232738) on Monday January 10, 2011 @06:52AM (#34821378)

        That's only a concern in the US. In the rest of the developed world (including Australia), anyone can get health insurance regardless of their DNA. I genuinely feel sorry for you that your country has created a situation where your first thought about technology like this is how big companies will use it to screw you over.

        It's also illegal for employers to require genetic testing to screen applicants. I'm pretty sure that's illegal in the US as well, and there's nothing to indicate that will change. So I really don't know what the GP is basing his paranoia on.

    • by Techman83 (949264)
      A lot of employers, especially in the mining sector require you to get a medical before your allowed to commence work. Some even have regular Drug/Alcohol tests, especially if you work on a mine site.
    • by mjwx (966435)

      So how long will it be before employers require this testing to screen applicants out for learning disabilities, probabilities of alcoholism/addiction, and probability of getting cancer?

      It's called the anti-discrimination act and I'm sincerely sorry your nation hasn't got one.

      But seeing as the article is about an Australian company, Australian workers don't need to worry (doubly so seeing as we aren't dependent on our employers for health care, we have one of those evil universal systems)

    • I suspect that that time will come, if not at the employer level, earlier in the game(fertility clinics, the best schools, etc.) However, unless these guys represent a considerable leap over the usual state of cheap genetics testing, they won't be bringing GATTACA with them just yet.

      There are certain genetic diagnoses that we have nailed down well enough, and which tell us things we would not otherwise be able to determine(in oncology, for example, we have learned a great deal about the assorted subtypes
    • Actually they will want to find out if your ancestors include English convicts. But don't worry, the Government will make it illegal to discriminate against you if you can't produce any.

      I am entitled to write this because my cousin is an Ocker.

  • by gmhowell (26755) <gmhowell@gmail.com> on Monday January 10, 2011 @03:17AM (#34820588) Homepage Journal

    Wonder how the false paternity rate is in Austrailia. I'm sure it's about to go down. Remember guys, genetic testing on day zero.

    • I'm sure it's about to go down.

      It's turtles . . . all the way down . . .

    • by radtea (464814)

      Wonder how the false paternity rate is in Austrailia.

      Probably about 5%. Data suggest values between 2 and 25% false paternity (child fathered by someone other than the mother's socially pair-bonded partner) depending mostly on how hierarchical the society is, and there can be variation within a country due do sub-culture differences.

      As somewhat polygamous, pair-bonding social primates, the optimum mating strategy for humans is for females to pair-bond with the highest-status male they can and then get pregnant from a higher-status male. For males it is to i

      • by gmhowell (26755)

        Genetic testing for paternity ought to be routine, and has the opportunity to be as socially disruptive as the Pill was a generation or two ago.

        Which makes it very scary for some very loud people on the public scene. Personally, I can't wait.

  • Moving goal posts (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Andy Smith (55346) on Monday January 10, 2011 @03:18AM (#34820594) Homepage

    Regardless of the ethics, controversy, or popularity of whatever is being regulated, regulation should, once set, remain largely unchanged. If the government sets out rules for business to operate, then a business following those rules -- not "working around" them -- should be able to continue trading. If the government then adjusts the regulatory rules, specifically to shut down certain businesses, those business should be able to claim compensation, which of course would come from our taxes. We may or may not like what a particular company is doing, but if we (via government) tell them it's okay to go ahead and start-up, we shouldn't set about shutting them down shortly after.

    What I'm trying to say is, governments shouldn't mess people around by giving them a set of rules and then changing the rules.

    • by gmhowell (26755) <gmhowell@gmail.com> on Monday January 10, 2011 @03:29AM (#34820632) Homepage Journal

      More inflexibility in government. I can't possibly see how that could go wrong.

    • by !eopard (981784)
      This is *exactly* what government does - propose, debate and pass laws, add clauses against identified workarounds/loopholes, clarifying and updating terminology etc. Have a look at HANSAARD one day.
      Why else would you need a new ATO ETAX program every year? It's because of the changed laws and clauses for our tax legislation.
      Note - not saying this is a good thing, it's just how things are. Refinement of existing laws and introduction of new ones. It would be nice to see more obsolete legislation remove
      • by c0lo (1497653)

        This is *exactly* what government does - propose, debate and pass laws, add clauses against identified workarounds/loopholes, clarifying and updating terminology etc. Have a look at HANSAARD one day...

        Nitpicking - I thought it is the parliament that passes the laws?
        Not saying the govt cannot be a source of legislation proposals, but I wouldn't like to have it able to approve them without any control.
        If the taxes change, is only because the taxation laws allow the govt to manage how current taxes are applied. I seem to remember that the introduction of the GST still required parliament approval.

      • by deniable (76198)
        Can't look at Hansard. It keeps getting blocked by our profanity filters.
        • by Cimexus (1355033)

          Haha +1 funny (if I had mod points)...

          The Australian Parliament certainly is one of the more entertaining and colourful legislatures to watch ;) It's quite endearing actually, although to foreign, non-Westminster-system eyes, it can seem quite uncivilised and chaotic at times. (For comparison, check out a video of the American Congress sitting ... it's very, very polite and orderly by comparison - no interruptions, no haggling, no jokes at other members' expense, and no cardboard cutouts of the Prime Minist

          • Australia isn't unique in this. See the Irish parliament [youtube.com] for another example. My favourite, however, is the polite behaviour in the Welsh Assembly Government - in their first sitting, one of the members referred to another as 'the honourable' and the speaker interrupted him, saying 'there are no honourable members here, boyo'.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      If the government sets out rules for business to operate, then a business following those rules -- not "working around" them -- should be able to continue trading.

      While usually I'd agree with this statement, business models designed to deliberately evade the spirit/intent of a law fall (to my view) into a different category.

      When an entity is operating in a way designed to flaunt a technicality it's perfectly reasonable (and predictable) for the government to legislate around the loophole. Such affected entities do not deserve to be compensated in court, though you are possibly right that under current law they would be.

      As an example, if I invent a new drug designed t

  • Why bother with schools and diplomas, go straight to the genome. Every new employee at my corporation needs certain DNA preset and only the approved array of good genes.

    /s
    • by Korin43 (881732)

      I don't see what a person's genes have to do with hiring them. You don't know things because of your genes, you know things because you learned them. If some genes make you predisposed to learning more, then we're already doing genetic testing by hiring the smartest applicants.

  • Yay toilet brushes for everyone unless your genes are good enough, that is if we even let you be born.
  • Only last week there were warnings about dodgy DNA test kits being mailed out. I'm sure the masses won't equate the two.
  • Seems todays quote appears to be oddly appropriate.

    There's nothing like a good dose of another woman to make a man appreciate his wife. -- Clare Booth Luce

  • Wait, 23andme already ships to Australia, and I'm pretty sure they respect local laws. How does this work again ?
  • "After the banning of direct-to-consumer. . ." I'm confused. This isn't direct to insurance provider, this isn't direct to employer, this isn't direct to medical professional. This is direct to me. So your saying I can't go to the local Walgreen's and buy a home test kit to see what secrets my dna holds? Not even for shits and giggles? So, that would make my nifty living room sofa art (www.dna11.com) illegal? I'm dumbfounded. Its my DNA, I should be able to do what ever I damn well please with it. Te
    • by radtea (464814)

      No, Australia has corporations. No free market there, only a market of protected special-interests hiding from liability behind the skirts of the Nanny State.

  • Just sent in my sample for 23andMe. It is none of the goverment's business what I do with my saliva.
  • You're not prescribing yourself drugs or performing self-surgery, so what's the point of involving a doctor in the process, other than bolstering the medical industry with unnecessary additional bills? I doubt your average family physician knows much more about genetics - especially on any level that would truly be valuable in evaluating a genetic test - than your average slashdotter.

    • by mibe (1778804)
      Wrong. Genetic stories on this site constantly have comments that would be answered with a quick year or two in medical school (or some Google for you auto-didacts). Even if we assume that "average slashdotter" knows more than "average person" it has been my experience that a doctor will still know more.
      • by Rich0 (548339)

        I suspect that your average biologist or biochemist would be at least as qualified or more qualified than the average MD to interpret the results of genetic testing (with the help of Google scholar perhaps), so why make the filter an MD which includes tons of completely irrelevant education (like how to chop people up and put them back together).

        A big problem with health care expenses is that we have one kind of certification that really matters for 99% of everything, and a big shortage of people with that

  • by Simon Rowe (1206316) on Monday January 10, 2011 @08:12AM (#34821794)
    you're descended from a criminal.
  • From TFA:

    "Lumigenix, which has a US licence to carry out risk testing, differs from some of its competitors in not reporting on risk for Alzheimer's disease, genetic markers that carry a high risk for breast cancer, and carrier status for heritable diseases."

    So what good is it?

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