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More healthy people are paying cash for elective genomic sequencing

2 of Boston's top hospitals are rolling out clinics that claim to predict potential diseases with elective (non-essential) genomic sequencing, Stat News' Rebecca Robbins reports.

Why it matters: Healthy people can pay up to thousands in cash, out of pocket, to visit similar genomics clinics at academic centers or hospitals. There is currently no strong evidence to show that healthy patients are benefitting from these clinics, most of which didn't exist more than 5 years ago.

  • The National Human Genome Research Institute is funding research on sequencing outcomes from the Boston Brigham and Women's Preventive Genomics Clinic, according to Dr. Robert Green, a medical geneticist directing Brigham's research.
  • Results from Brigham's genomic sequencing enter the patient's medical record just like any other clinical data, according to Green.

What they're saying: “The idea that genomic sequencing is only going to be accessible by wealthy, well-educated patrons who can pay out of pocket is anathema to the goals of the publicly funded Human Genome Project, and creates new disparities in our health care system,” Dr. Jonathan Berg, a genetics professor at the University of North Carolina, tells Stat News.

The big picture: The University of California in San Francisco, the Mayo Clinic and the nonprofit HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology in Alabama also offer elective genomic sequencing programs, per Stat News.

By the numbers: Patients at Brigham and Women's Preventive Genomics Clinic pay out of pocket for sequencing that ranges from $250 to $2,950. Patients at HudsonAlpha pay up to $7,000 for "whole genome sequencing and interpretation," Stat News reports.

Driving the news: Gene therapies expected to come with big price tags