NEW YORK — The largest U.S. drugstore chain, Walgreen Co., will start selling genetic testing kits at many of its stores later this month, according to Pathway Genomics, which makes the kits.
Pathway said Tuesday that Walgreen will sell saliva swab kits that are used to determine predisposition for chronic diseases, and response to common drugs like Plavix, Tamoxifen and Coumadin.
They can also be used to determine if a person carries a gene for diseases like Alzheimer's, cystic fibrosis, and Tay-Sachs disease.
The tests will be available at Walgreen stores starting in mid-May, it said.
The company said the testing kits will cost $20 to $30 each and will include a saliva collection kit and a postage-paid envelope that customers can use to send their saliva sample to the Pathway laboratory.
Customers can then go Pathway's Web site and order tests. Pathway says the tests – for drug response, "pre-pregnancy planning" and "health conditions" – start at $79 and run up to $249 for all three.
Pathway is based in San Diego. Walgreen, which is headquartered in Deerfield, Ill., runs about 7,500 stores in all 50 states as well as Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.
Pathway said the test will not be available in New York due to state law.
Other companies, including Navigenics Inc. and 23andMe Inc., also offer direct-to-consumer genetic testing, spawned by recent genetic discoveries.
State and federal public health officials, however, have urged consumers to be skeptical, noting that related research is in its earliest stages and doctors have little training in interpreting the results.