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Over-the-counter paternity testing goes on sale in the UK

17 August 2009
Appeared in BioNews 521

A 'do-it-yourself' genetic testing kit will be available over-the-counter from chemists in the UK which allows users to send their own DNA samples by post for paternity testing. The kits cost £29.99 each and are produced by Anglia DNA, a company based in Norwich. Customers are required to post samples of their DNA to the company and - upon payment of a further fee of £129 - the samples will be tested in the company's laboratory. The results are then produced within five days - or within 24 hours if customers opt for the express service costing £329. The test is designed to confirm the paternity of an alleged father but the results will not be legally binding in paternity disputes in the courts.

Anglia DNA must comply with consent requirements for DNA analysis under the Human Tissue Act 2004 and it says that it also follows guidelines issued by the British Medical Association on over-the-counter genetic tests. Both adults must sign a consent form to be returned with the DNA samples and then this will be followed up with a telephone call to confirm the parties understand the consequences of the procedure. The consent of the child is usually obtained via the mother, the company said.

Liberal Democrat MP Norman Lamb says he is writing to the Human Tissue Authority (HTA) to ask for clarification on how such over-the-counter products are regulated. 'There's a question about whether the regulatory system keeps pace with changes in technology and whether there's a need to change the rules in which this sort of product can operate,' he said. Mr Lamb expressed concerns that the tests could encourage users to adopt a more 'casual' attitude to paternity testing: 'On the face of it, I don't oppose the idea of people having a right to know what their parentage is... but I can also see there are potential negative consequences and risk of a casual attitude to having a child.' The increasing availability of DNA testing and the improvement of the technology has thrown up the question of how such tests should be regulated, said Mr Lamb, calling upon the government and the HTA to address the issue.

Anglia DNA is the first company to test customers' DNA on UK soil. Last month, International Biosciences announced it was also distributing over-the-counter DNA testing kits to UK chemists but it sent the samples to the United States for testing.

Tom Howell, business development manager at Anglia DNA, said the company takes the issue of consent very seriously and defended supplying the kits over the counter. 'DNA testing used to exist online but now people can buy kits from an environment they feel comfortable with,' he said, adding: 'It takes away doubts and concerns and means people can move on with their lives. It is rare that people get back results that they do not expect.' Anglia DNA managing director, Dr Thomas Haizel said, 'It's great to have been able finally to launch the product and we hope the UK consumer will find great confidence in knowing this is a product developed for the UK market with all the testing done in a UK laboratory.'

SOURCES & REFERENCES
£30 DNA testing kits to go on sale over the counter to settle paternity disputes without lawyers
The Daily Mail |  12 August 2009
DNA kits to go on sale
The Daily Telegraph |  12 August 2009
DNA test kits set to be sold over the counter in Scotland
The Herald |  12 August 2009
Do-it-yourself DNA test kits ready to go on sale in chemists
The Times |  13 August 2009
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