Walgreens puts hold on its plan to sell genetic test kits in stores

DEERFIELD, Ill. Apparently having second thoughts on a deal that would have put genetic testing kits up for sale in its stores, Walgreens said Thursday it would delay any move to offer the products until questions posed by the Food and Drug Administration about the product are resolved.

Those questions arose following published reports that Pathway Genomics would begin selling its genetic test kits in most Walgreens stores this week. The reports triggered new scrutiny from the FDA, which indicated this week that it has no record of having approved the kits for sale.

The federal agency – which may be adopting a more assertive stance to product reviews and approvals under commissioner Margaret Hamburg – told Reuters news service that it would “take a hard look at any claims made by the company.”

Both Walgreens and Pathway asserted earlier this week that FDA approval is not needed for the sale of test kits in a retail setting. But FDA spokesperson Erica Jefferson told Reuters on Tuesday, “If a company is making claims about a product that hasn't been reviewed or validated by FDA, we want to make sure the information to consumers is accurate and the test will do what it says it will do.”

In response, Walgreens reversed course. The company said Thursday has shelved, for now, its plan to go ahead with a rapid rollout of the kits.

“In light of the FDA contacting Pathway Genomics about its genetic test kit and anticipated ongoing discussions between the two parties, we’ve elected not to move forward with offering the Pathway product to our customers until we have further clarity on this matter,” said Walgreens spokesman Jim Cohn.

The tests are saliva-based, and are intended to assess via DNA analysis patients’ genetic markers for such potential conditions as diabetes and cancer.

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