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23andMe hit with class action over “misleading” genetic ads

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California-based 23andMe, already in the midst of a regulatory firestorm with the FDA, is being targeted by a class action lawsuit that claims its ads are misleading, and that the results of its $99 genetic test are “not supported by any scientific evidence.”

In a complaint filed last week, San Diego resident Lisa Casey claims she paid for 23andMe’s services, and received results by email, after learning of the home-based saliva test via TV and online ads. Now, days after the FDA issued a stinging letter that ordered the company to stop its marketing, Casey seeks to represent the “ten or hundreds of thousands” of others across America who paid for the product.

According to the complaint, which seeks at least $5 million under various California state laws, 23andMe makes false and misleading claims about the tests’ ability to provide relevant genetic information about breast cancer, diabetes, lactose intolerance and various other conditions.

23andMe, which is currently in discussions with the FDA, is still in the process of pulling down its commercials, which depict people standing next to pictures of their genetic profiles and saying things like “This part makes my eyes blue” and “I might have an increased risk of heart disease.”

The company, which is run by Anne Wojcicki, wife of Google founder Sergey Brin, has been at the center of controversy since last week when the FDA issued a letter saying that 23andMe had been marketing medical devices without permission, and that its practices could lead to health risks like unnecessary mastectomies.

Some medical experts have defended the company, telling the New York Times “Is the only pathway for me to get access to the contents of my cells via some guy in a white coat?”

23andMe declined to comment on the lawsuit. You can read the complaint for yourself below:

Casey v 23andMe

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The complaint was spotted by Law360 (sub req’d).

16 Responses to “23andMe hit with class action over “misleading” genetic ads”

  1. May Lavinia

    Today I received the official notice regarding the services I paid for when I joined 23andme and they are greatly reduced going forward.
    NOW I think I have a cause to join a lawsuit unless they refund some of the monies paid based on these reduced/non existent services.
    I looked at the existing lawsuit and do not agree I was misled except for thinking they had FDA approval (that was a big omission). I joined mainly for the novelty of seeing personal DNA information. I never relied on any of the medical predictions.

    I disagree on the amount of damages. As an early subscriber I paid over $200 ($299?) EACH for my and my husband’s membership. They only recently lowered the price to $99.

    I imagine they made a lot of money selling all our DNA data. When you combine the FDA omission as well as the reduced services announcement today I believe they should voluntarily refund my money.

  2. Lora Pfundheller

    Who are these surgeons who will do unnecessary mastectomies based only on the results from 23andMe? It’s not like you can pick up a DIY kit. What utter rubbish.

  3. “FDA issued a letter saying that 23andMe had been marketing medical devices without permission, and that its practices could lead to health risks like unnecessary mastectomies.”

    You have to have medical doctors and test to say nothing of the use of a hospital so how could the 23andME test result in unnecessary mastectomies. Their tests may alert someone to be tested further but if surgery was unnecessary that outcome would fall back on the Medical Doctors that the FDA says have to be involved.

    Play or go home but quit the complaining. These tests have been extremely interesting. Take them for what they are and not for what they aren’t. Even the regulated medical world has false positives and false negative.

  4. This is just some opportunistic idiot who doesn’t have enough brain cells to interpret the information provided so they are jumping on what they picture as the easy money bandwagon…can anyone say McDonald’s coffee is HOT?!

  5. This is disgusting. I’m a 23&Me user and when/if I get notice I’ll be one who “Opts out” of this frivolous suit. I hope that everyone opts out and they see that no-one was ‘injured’ by spitting in a tube and reading about some interesting genetic results and have multiple disclaimers behind them.

  6. Frances Allred

    I don’t think they will win a class action suit. If the woman doesn’t like the testing here just shut up and go somewhere else. They do a good job here. They do a lot of work for 99.00. I am well pleased and believe that most of the people feel as I do.

    • Frances Allred

      Matthew, Why do you have concerns? I have had all their test done and not only here but with FTDNA. They are right on target here. They were doing test FTDNA started doing much later and my cousins match in both groups. I do this for genealogy purposes and it has help me a great deal. The health thing doesn’t bother me at all. They have been correct in the health thing with me too. If you don’t want the health thing don’t do it. I think it is very mean to come over here and want to sue these very talented people.

  7. This is so sad. 23andMe provide some insight into an otherwise closed book. they make no claims that are outrageous to the right thinking mind… this is just ambulance chasing following on from the FDA picking on an easy target rather than actually helping.

    In a healthcare system which is motivated by medicating for dollars and propping up insurance companies any knowledge in the hands of the patient seems to be deemed dangerous… understanding why my eyes are the color they are, or getting corroboration for an already known genetic condition is a great data point, but it’s just that… a data point that I’d discuss with my doctor before doing anything about (or hell, maybe I’d just make that little extra effort to eat right and get a bit more exercise rather than seeking someone to blame)

  8. This is an interesting case. It does not seem as though the marketing has been lying, more that they do not have the FDA approval to use such statements in their marketing. I wonder if a class-action suit could actually win as there is not proof that their claims are false, more that they do not have FDA approval to make such claims