Genetics is playing an increasingly important role in health care. New technical advances and information deriving from human genome research are changing health care practices and the economics of healthcare provision. These advances have broad social implications, particularly with the prospect in the future of a significant increase in the choice of genetic tests on the market. Can there be equitable access to such testing? What is the impact of offering tests for conditions for which there is no effective medical treatment at present? What are the quality guarantees for genetic testing, and should there be international standards?
An OECD workshop on genetic testing held in Vienna on 23-25 February was devoted to the discussion of ways to optimise health care benefits while protecting individuals and their families from the potential of discrimination on the basis of the testing.
Participants, including experts from 17 OECD countries, representatives of patients' organisations, industry, non governmental organisations, and the World Health Organisation (WHO), identified four areas where co-ordinated international action is urgently needed:
In recognition of the global importance of these issues, the OECD will continue to strengthen co-operation in biotechnology with other international organisations, particularly with the WHO, as highlighted in a Framework for Co-operation signed by the Directors of the two organisations on 16 December 1999.
This workshop is part of a broader programme of work within the OECD on issues regarding health and biotechnology.