At-home tests are booming, but physicians have concerns

More patients are turning to DIY testing to understand and treat their conditions, but physicians worry the tests could lead to unsafe practices, The Washington Post reported June 9.

A growing network of independent lab startups is offering at-home tests for conditions including menopause, food sensitivity, thyroid function, testosterone levels, ADHD and sexually transmitted diseases. These tests could be fueling a growing distrust of "Big Medicine" and providers that began during the pandemic, when more patients sought their own medical information online and normalized giving themselves COVID-19 tests.

The home diagnostic market generated $5 billion annually and is expected to nearly double by 2032, a market research firm found. Venture capitalists and entrepreneurs told the Post they hope frequent at-home testing becomes routine. 

One startup company is trying to make cancer testing as simple as a home pregnancy test, allowing patients in remission to check if the disease has returned and confirm the results with a  physician. 

Patients told the Post at-home tests can bring relief when they were unable to find help from traditional medical care. However, physicians argue that skipping office visits can lead to questionable remedies, misdiagnosis and delayed medical care. 

Many at-home tests are not regulated by the FDA, and many more can circumvent government safeguards by making their products "wellness" tests that do not require supervision before being marketed to consumers. Other tests avoid FDA review by having physicians oversee some part of the testing process.

This has led to some tests not meeting government standards or misrepresenting what they can determine, according to the report.

The FDA is starting to act. In April, regulators finalized a rule that would begin to hold lab-made tests to the same standards as conventional tests. But in the meantime, some patients are facing a "vicious cycle" of unnecessary testing, spending and anxiety, Disha Narang, MD, an endocrinologist at Evanston, Ill.-based Endeavor Health, told the Post.

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