People in England will be able to pay the NHS to sequence their genetic data, if they share it with scientists

pharmafile | January 28, 2019 | News story | Sales and Marketing Alzheimer's, Cancer, England, NHS, genetic data, genomes, health 

The NHS will provide paid-for health reports, informing patients as to the likelihood that they will develop diseases such as Alzheimer’s or cancer, as long as those people share their data.

People in England will be able to pay the NHS to sequence their genes, on the condition that they share their genetic information with scientists and researchers. Those with serious conditions will receive this service for free.

The project, which will be led by Genomics England (a company set up by the NHS), will see genetic data shared with scientists anonymously.

The announcement comes just a couple of months after scientists reached their goal of sequencing 100,000 genomes over five years as part of the 100,000 genomes project.

It has not yet been announced as to how much the service will cost.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock commented: “While healthy people should not have this service free on the NHS, there are huge benefits to sequencing as many genomes as we can. Every genome sequenced moves us a step closer to unlocking life-saving treatments.”    

However critics have warned that the service may lead to privatisation of the NHS as the paid-for-reports may fuel inequality in health outcomes.

Dr Anneke Lucassen, the chairwoman of the British Society for Genetic Medicine, said: “The NHS has always been free at the point of delivery. It has the potential to create a two-tier system.”

The government now hopes to sequence 1 million genomes over the next five years.

Louis Goss

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