Ronda Kaysen: The legions of men out there who fear that they're not the babydaddy can now walk into a drugstore and pick up their very own DNA paternity test. Identigene boasts that it is the only company that sells the test in stores (all the other companies sell them online) and says that their availability is great for customers.
This newfound access to paternity tests in Walgreens got us thinking. How many people actually use these things? Are people really lining up to find out if the kid watching TV in the living room is really theirs?
Momlogic set out to get some answers from the folks at Identigene. What Steve Smith, the company's director of sales and marketing, told us was downright surprising.
momlogic: How many people actually buy paternity tests in the United States?
Steve Smith: The best estimates are about one million tests a year.
ml: Wow! There are really one million men out there every year questioning whether they're the father?
SS: We've also worked with immigration officials, embassies and people who are trying to bring in relatives from their home country.
ml: People have been able to order paternity tests online for years, which seems like a perfectly anonymous way to go about things. Why would someone prefer to get the test from a store, which seems so much less private?
SS: Since we've gone retail, the pharmacy seems to be a more popular choice than online. It's pretty clear that people prefer to go to their pharmacy to get this kind of test. They can pay cash for it. They don't have to put a credit card online.
ml: These tests are pretty costly -- about $150 for a "peace of mind" test and a whopping $400 for the version that's court-admissible. Why does it cost so much?
SS: The DNA-testing technology is expensive. Every test is performed by a laboratory geneticist. It takes millions of dollars just to purchase the equipment. It's a pretty intense process.
ml: If the "peace of mind" version of the test isn't court-admissible, why even use it?
SS: Some people would rather know the answer before they start involving third parties or contacting lawyers. Some people have recently come in contact with their biological father, for example, but they're not going to make any child custody changes. Everybody's situation is a little different.
ml: How long does it take to get the results?
SS: We say three to five business days from the time the test arrives at the lab. Everyone's DNA is different, but most people get their answer in three days.
ml: Does it hurt?
SS: It's very easy and very painless. It looks like a Q-tip and you just swab the inside of your cheek. There's no blood draw. This test is even safe for infants.