23andMe is asking users to share health conditions and review treatments

  • 23andMe wants users to rate their treatments for some conditions such as depression and asthma in a new feature.
  • The company is starting with 18 common health conditions, including allergies, Type 2 diabetes, migraines and more.
  • 23andMe is not itself recommending any treatments.
More than 80 percent of 23andMe customers agree to let the company share their DNA with research partners.
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More than 80 percent of 23andMe customers agree to let the company share their DNA with research partners.

Genetics testing company 23andMe wants users to rate their treatments for some conditions such as depression and asthma in a new feature it unveiled Thursday.

The company is starting with 18 common health conditions, including allergies, Type 2 diabetes, migraines and more. Only three of them are associated with a genetic report, said Jessie Inchauspe, the product manager who led the treatment page work.

Users can see what others have reported about the effectiveness of various treatments. The page also lists how many users experience the condition. About 4,500 users have shared 30,000 reviews since the company started testing the treatment pages over the past few weeks.

People can also access 23andMe's research.

The company doesn't have any immediate plans for how it will use the data it gathers from people's responses, but it could eventually use it to conduct more research, Inchauspe said.

23andMe has already collected data from the initial rollout. It found 36 percent of users experience seasonal allergies and top treatments include Flonase, Zyrtec, Claritin and Allegra.

"I would say in general as a company, we're really interested in helping customers with all aspects of their health," she said. "We don't have any immediate plans with the data, but you could imagine it leading to more detailed research in the future. Our mission as a company is all about giving people access to data and allowing them to use it."

Some experts have warned of the risks in giving consumers more control in their genetic health. 23andMe faced some backlash last month when the Food and Drug Administration approved an at-home test that screens for three mutations in a common type of breast cancer gene.

Insights into a patient's genetics can help in understanding one's risk and can be important for prevention, diagnosis and management for many medical conditions, said Dr. Peter Hulick, medical director of the center for personalized medicine at NorthShore University HealthSystem. But without proper understanding, results can create undue stress, he said.

"That is why it's extremely important for patients and physicians to work together to determine the right genetic tests at the right time and include other factors important in one's health history," he said in an email. "Efforts to increase availability of educational resources will help patients have important, and more meaningful conversations with their physicians/health care team."

With the new condition pages, 23andMe is not itself recommending any treatments. Instead, the company says it's giving people different information than they would find from a simple internet search.

A disclaimer at the bottom of the screen suggests users consider consulting a health-care professional if they're in need of treatments.