The Association of British Insurers should work with the government to draw up a new agreement on the use of genetic tests results for insurance purposes beyond the current moratorium which runs out in 2014, according to a new report on genomic medicine by the House of Lords.
The Lords' Science and Technology Committee also recommends that beyond 2014 insurers should be prevented from asking for details of tests results carried out while the current moratorium is in force.
The committee recommends that direct to consumer tests for genetic predisposition to specific diseases should be subject to a code of practice. It warns that consumers are currently vulnerable to exploitation because providers are often based abroad and thus outside the remit of the Advertising Standards Agency, which could challenge bogus claims about the effectiveness of tests. It also recommends that consumers should have access to appropriate pre- and post-test counselling.
The committee is calling on the government to produce a new white paper on genomic medicine - the last one was published in 2003 - in recognition of the progress made in the field and the implications for patient care in the NHS. It has identified barriers to the use of new tests from invention to use in the NHS, a lack of training for healthcare staff in using and interpreting genetic tests and a postcode lottery in access to genetic services.
Lord Patel, who chaired the inquiry, says "Genomic medicine will clearly have a huge impact on health provision and the NHS in particular over the next few years. It is an ever developing technology that presents both challenges and exciting opportunities for health care."