25th January 2012
Responding to today's report by the Human Genome Strategy Group (HGSG) on innovation in the NHS and the human genome (1), GeneWatch UK warned that overenthusiasm about genomics could waste vast sums of public money.
"Government should not be duped by hype about genomics: some useful applications will exist but most diseases in most people and many adverse drug reactions are not predictable from people's genes", said Dr Helen Wallace, Director of GeneWatch UK. "Storing personal genomes for no reason would lead to a massive marketing scam, based on selling drugs to healthy people who are told they are at risk of getting diseases in the future".
A few enthusiasts, including Professor Sir John Bell, Chair of the HGSG, have long argued that everyone in the NHS should have their whole genomes sequenced and stored in electronic medical records. This led to the 12 billion pound decision to build a database of electronic medical records in the NHS and a long string of past policy recommendations (2).
"The idea that everyone should have their genome sequenced is a science fantasy that would waste vast sums of public money and create a Big Brother database that would allow everyone in Britain to be tracked", said Dr Wallace "There are many useful applications of genetic and genomic testing but today's report greatly oversells the benefits. The NHS would benefit from a much more focused approach which does not exaggerate the importance of particular technologies."
For further information contact:
Dr Helen Wallace: 01298 - 24300 (office); 07903 - 311584 (mobile)
Notes for Editors:
(1) Report highlights benefits of genomic innovation. Department of Health. 25th January 2012. On: http://www.dh.gov.uk/health/2012/01/genomics/
(2) Further information on: http://www.genewatch.org/sub-568491