Experts Debate if Offering People ‘Genetic Astrology’ on Marijuana is Right

Experts debate if offering people’s ‘genetic astrology’ on marijuana is the right way to go. (File image via Reuters)

In September, the Toronto-based AnantLife has launched a unique service. It allows people to know their very own ‘genetic astrology’ on how their bodies would process marijuana, and if there are any cognitive side effects.   

Like Ancestry and 23andMe services, where curious folks send their saliva to know their origins, all AnantLife needs is saliva for their genetic testing.

Since September, the Canadian company sold about 1,500 of these tests in Canada and the United States, with an average price of $300, Dr. Rahul Kushwah, the chief scientific officer for AnantLife, told The Globe and Mail.

These tests search for genetic markers associated with increased risk of cannabis dependence, cognitive effects, the cardiovascular disease linked to cannabis consumption and eating disorders triggered by marijuana-induced munchies.

AnantLife is not alone in trying to capitalize on the whole marijuana legalization trend. Another Canadian company, MedReleaf, has also announced a genetic test called ReLeafDX, to be released this month.

Neil Closner, the company’s chief executive officer, said DNA is used to evaluate genetic markers involved in metabolizing cannabis. The good news, the test is free of charge. It will also help doctors glean answers to two key questions, Closner said: “How much to prescribe and which products to recommend patients use.”

Canadians also have access to the services of a U.S. company called Only YOU Genetics. Based in New Orleans, Only YOU has come out with a test that bundles genetic markers for metabolism of cannabis compounds with pharmacogenomic testing for 145 conventional drugs, at the initial cost of $299 (U.S.).

Only YOU has come out with a test that bundles genetic markers for metabolism of cannabis compounds with pharmacogenomic testing for 145 conventional drugs
Only YOU has come out with a test that bundles genetic markers for metabolism of cannabis compounds with pharmacogenomic testing for 145 conventional drugs. (File image via Reuters)

Experts question these services

Dr. Corey Nislow, an associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the University of British Columbia, told The Globe and Mail that it would be a shame to “overhype” the ability of these tests to tailor cannabis therapies today. He said,

“Five years from now if we continue to do good work, we may be a lot closer.”

Apparently, evidence-based tests to predict drug reactions depend on a resource based at Stanford University called PharmGKB, which collates data from the world literature and rates gene-drug interactions according to the level of evidence to support them, The Globe and Mail reported.

The PharmGKB database includes a limited number of genetic variants linked to cannabis, said Dr. Martin Dawes, a professor of family practice at the University of B.C., and founder of a pharmacogenomics company called GenXys Health Care Systems.

And if we compare these resources to the level of evidence for drugs such as warfarin or codeine, “we’ve got hardly any here,” Dawes said.

Dr. Lindsay Meredith, a professor of marketing at Simon Fraser University, cautioned that Health Canada must “rigorously examine” these tests as people view doctors as authority figures. He added, 

“If you can convince [physicians] that you’ve got the right product…they’ll market it for you.”

Earlier this year, a group of Canadian health experts, including the Canadian Medical Association and Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, published Canada’s Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines

“These are much more reasonable guidance documents to use rather than taking a [genetic] test,” Dr. Bernard Le Foll, a clinical scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, concluded.

Comments