Tuesday 2 December 2014

23andMe relaunches health reports in the UK

It has been announced today that 23andMe have reintroduced their health test in the UK. The 23andMe test has been available in the UK since the company launched back in 2006, but in November 2013 23andMe were asked by the Food and Drugs Administration in America to withdraw their health reports pending regulatory approval. Existing customers were able to retain access to their health reports but new customers who ordered a kit on or after 22nd November 2013 were only able to receive the ancestry reports. The health reports were restored in Canada in October this year. The UK is now the second country to have renewed access to the 23andMe health reports. UK customers who ordered a 23andMe ancestry test between 22nd November 2013 and 1st December 2014 are now able to receive the new health reports free of charge. New customers in the UK who order a 23andMe test from today onwards will now have access to both health and ancestry reports. The 23andMe UK website can be found at: http://www.23andme.co.uk This URL redirects to: https://www.23andme.com/en-gb/

There has been a slight increase in price. The new test now costs £125 but this price is inclusive of shipping. The old test cost cost $178.95 ($99 for the test + $79.95 for shipping) which worked out at around £114 per test at the current exchange rate.

The new test is a pared down version of the previous test as can been in the comparison below.

New UK 23andMe health test
Old 23andMe health test
43 inherited conditions 
53 inherited conditions
12 drug responses
24 drug responses
11 genetic risk factors
122 health risks
38 traits                    
60 traits

A full list of the reports offered can be seen  here: https://www.23andme.com/en-gb/health/reports/#traits

I have access to a UK account which has the new health reports and I've had a chance to have a look around and see what is offered. Previously 23andMe used a star system to grade the confidence levels that they had assigned to reports. In my own 23andMe account I have reports that are graded from one star up to four stars. The grading system is explained as follows:

Four stars: Established Research. At least two studies examined more than 750 people with the trait or condition and/or the associations are widely accepted in the scientific community. The reports may cover rare conditions or include variants that do not greatly influence a person's absolute lifetime risk for a condition.

Three stars: Preliminary Research. More than 750 people with the condition were studied, but the findings still need to be confirmed by the scientific community in an independent study of similar size.

Two stars Preliminary Research. Fewer than 750 people were studied. Multiple large studies are needed to confirm these findings.

One star: Preliminary Research. Fewer than 100 people were studied. Multiple large studies are needed to confirm these findings.

With the new test only four-star reports are shown for genetic risk factors, drug responses and inherited conditions. The trait reports have star ratings of two, three or four stars.

Some four-star health reports are no longer available (for example, diabetes, age-related macular degeneration, bipolar disorder and stomach cancer). It is not clear why these reports are now excluded whereas potentially more controversial reports such as Alzheimer's are still available.

The display of the health reports has changed. 23andMe no longer show your risk compared to the average. This was previously presented in a somewhat alarming and confusing way so that all the conditions for which you had a higher than average risk factor, however small, were highlighted in red as though they were potentially a cause for concern. For example, in my own report I supposedly have a 0.2 % risk of bipolar disorder compared to an average risk of 0.1%. In contrast I have a 50.6% risk of obesity compared to an average risk of 59%, but because my risk was lower than average, it was not picked out in the report as being of special concern even though I am much more at risk of obesity than I am of bipolar disorder.

I had hoped that a test aimed at the UK market would be customised with links to UK resources. However, as far as I can gather most of the resources are in fact American resources. Confusingly when the word "national" appears it is used to refer to the US and not the UK. Similarly 23andMe advise talking to a genetic counsellor if you have concerns about your results, but they provide a link to an American company called InformedDNA and a link to the US National Society of Genetic Counselors. It would have been much more helpful to provide information about genetic counsellors in the UK and links to NHS resources.

Regardless of these minor quibbles, it's good news that the 23andMe health reports are once again available in the UK.

I have provided links to further coverage of the story below:

- 23andMe press release: http://mediacenter.23andme.com/en-gb/blog/2014/12/01/23andme-brings-ce-marked-personal-genome-service-to-the-uk/

- BBC interview with Anne Wojcicki: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-30288939

- BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-30285581

- The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/dec/02/google-genetic-testing-23andme-uk-launch

- Daily Mail: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2856789/125-DNA-test-checks-100-conditions-assess-risk-Alzheimer-s-cancer-going-bald.html

- GenomeWeb: https://www.genomeweb.com/microarrays-multiplexing/23andme-gets-ce-mark-launches-pgs-offering-uk-125

- The Verge (US): http://www.theverge.com/science/2014/12/1/7316089/23andme-expands-to-the-uk-despite-us-restrictions

- PHG Foundation: http://www.phgfoundation.org/news/16442/

Further reading
My series of articles on my 23andMe test - Note that my test was done on the Version 2 chip before the launch of the new test on the v4 chip in the UK
- Tim Janzen's autosomal DNA testing comparison chart


Unknown said...

Thank you Debbie - how pleased I am that I received the "old" test with all the bells and whistles, although I confess to having only taken notice of those with at least a 25% risk. As it turns out, ALL of them have proven true :-( but since I coupled same with those %s and I zeroed in on the age likelihood of manifestation, so that added a further interesting layer. I guess the bottom line is essentially about what the odds given happen to be...

Debbie Kennett said...


I'm also very happy with all my additional old-style reports, even though they only had two or three stars. There are lots of different factors at play so I would guess that these tests will never be truly predictive, and there's still a lot to learn. I know people who have a particular condition but have a decreased risk at 23andMe. Conversely there are people with high risk who will never have the disease.

I'm wondering if Australia and New Zealand will be 23andMe's next targets for the re-launch of their health tests.

Sue Griffith said...

Something else where those buying in the US get a better deal than in the UK is when buying 2 or more kits. In the US, there is 20% off the 2nd and subsequent kits (bought at the same time and shipped to the same address), whereas in the UK, there is only 10% off.

Debbie Kennett said...

Sue, Thanks for pointing out the reduced UK discount when ordering additional kits. At least we do now have access to the health reports. In the UK, unlike Canada, the shipping is included in the cost of the test.