ACCC Says Chemmart’s DNA Test Ads Are ‘Misleading’

Chemmart’s myDNA test described itself as “personalised medicine” where “your DNA results can help guide your future health and lifestyle choices” in Chemmart’s catalogues, television infomercials, in-store brochures and other promotional materials — and ACCC isn’t happy about it, saying it “risked conveying a false or misleading impression regarding the usefulness of the genetic test, and the consumers for whom it may be appropriate”.

Chemmart withdrew all of the promotional materials containing the statements of concern to the ACCC following contact by the ACCC. Chemmart also agreed to refrain from making any statements in the future about the myDNA test that have the potential to mislead consumers about the applicability and effectiveness of the test.

“70 per cent of people who take a myDNA test have a finding that could affect current or future medications,” the Chammart and myDNA sites claimed, promoting the test to those taking antidepressants, pain or reflux medication, if you have a history of not responding to common drugs, experience side-effects from your medication, take multiple medications, have children on prescribed medication, or are pregnant or planning pregnancy.

The myDNA genetic test, sold for $149 (with no Medicare or Health Fund rebate available) is performed via a cheek swab, has been available at Chemmart since November 2015, where the pharmacist gives you your results in a private consultation. If changes to your medication are recommended, you are sent to see your doctor, who has the test explained to them by the pharmasist.

There are common variations in four particular genes involved in the processing of most drugs. CYP2C9 and VKORC1 affect the metabolism of the blood-thinning drug warfarin, CYP2D6 is involved in the metabolism of the pain killers codeine, tramadole, and antidepressants and CYP2C19 affects the metabolism of antidepressants, blood thinner clopidogrel and reflux drugs like esomeprazole.

There is an inherited variation in around 20 genes which affects 80 or so medications the test can identify. These variations can predict if you are at risk of side effects because you may metabolise the drug more slowly, and high concentrations can build up on a normal dose. Some drugs could metabolised too rapidly, so a a higher dose may be needed.

The problem is even if the test shows there’s a risk of a genetic variant impacting on how a drug is metabolised, it’s only one factor to take into consideration. Other drugs being taken, allergies, kidney function — these all need to be taken into account.

Genetic profile is just one of a wide range of factors that may be considered by a medical practitioner in determining the type and dose of drug that is suitable for an individual. So Chemmart saying “myDNA is a genetic test that identifies which medications will work best for you” grossly overstates how useful the test actually is.

“Consumers place a high level of trust in pharmacists and the information they provide. They’re entitled to expect that products and services in pharmacies are promoted in a way that is clear and accurate, and explains both the benefits and limitations of those products or services,” ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said.

“This is a reminder to pharmacies to avoid making statements about products in advertising and promotional materials that are overly broad or which do not contain sufficient qualification, and consequently have the potential to mislead consumers.”

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