Sequencing People’s Genomes Might Not Make Them Spend More on Healthcare

As genome sequencing enters the clinic, fears have arisen about its potential to motivate follow-up testing and ongoing screening that could drastically increase healthcare spending. The MedSeq Project, led by geneticists at Brigham Women’s Hospital in Boston, is the first randomised trial to provide whole genome sequencing to both presumably healthy patients, as well as those with a known cardiology issue. As part of this pilot study, the project analysed both the immediate costs of sequencing itself as well as downstream spending six months after genetic information was returned to physicians and their patients. The research team found that downstream costs did not significantly differ between patients who had received whole genome sequencing and those that did not. The team notes that six months may be too short a period to observe the full impact of sequencing on costs and health benefits. They plan to extend their study to follow patients for five years.