The Dangers of Race Based Medicine

4244 Words17 Pages
The Dangers of Race-Based Medicine An analysis of new drug therapies specifically targeted towards African American populations with hypertension. I. Introduction to Contemporary Race-Based Therapeutics On November 11th, 2004, NitroMed, a Massachusetts based pharmaceutical company published a study on the effects of a new drug called BiDil in treating heart failure among African Americans in the New England Journal of Medicine (Taylor 2049). Since announcing the study, NitroMed’s research has sparked controversy surrounding the ethical implications and scientific evidence of race-based medicine. This study marks a breakthrough in race-based drug treatments as the first pharmaceutical ever researched, endorsed and targeted for a single ethnic group (Pollack 1). The racially-specific pharmaceutical initiative is a product of tremendous government funding allotted by the Clinton administration to the Human Genome Project at the turn of the millennium. Since then, much medical research has focused on understanding the human genome in search of genetic explanations for health problems while funding and interest have decreased in social-related health research and medical programs for poor and underserved populations (Braun 162). NitroMed’s study marks a growing movement that has begun to cite genetic makeup, specifically race-related genetic makeup, rather than environmental or other confounding factors as the source of disease. This shift in presumed cause of health-related problems raises many troubling implications. With race-based therapeutics comes the assumption that there are biological differences between races. The dangers of such implications are vast, the most pressing problem being the ambiguity of race, particularly with regard to genetic composition. Considerable studies have demonstrated the lack of genotypic correlations among members of a given race. Similarly, socioeconomic and other confounding variables have a profound impact on health and thus must be considered in the discussion of race-based therapeutics and research. This tension between social and biological conceptions of race is now at the forefront of discussion among scientific scholars seeking explanations for the relationship of disease and ethnicity (Foster 844). The ultimate goal of pharmacogenomics, as stated by Henig, “would be for everyone’s genome to be analyzed indi... ... middle of paper ... ...atients.” New York Times 20 July 2004: 1. “Racial Diversity in Drug Trials Can Produce Breakthroughs.” USA Today 15 Nov 2004: 14a. “Racing to Conclusions.” Scientific American 289:9 (2003): 1-2. Rosenberg, Ronald. “Firm to test heart drug for blacks.” Boston Globe 10 March 2001: 1-2. Tate, Sarah K and David B. Goldstein. “Will Tomorrow’s medicines work for everyone?” Nature Genetics 36: 11 (2004): S34-42 Taylor, Anne L., et al. “Combination of Isosorbide Dinitrate and Hydralazine in Blacks with Heart Failure.” New England Journal of Medicine 351:20 (2004): 2049-2057 Tishkoff, Sarah A, and Kenneth K. Kidd. “Implications of biogeography of human populations for ‘race’ and medicine.” Nature Genetics 36:11 (2004): S21-27. Wade, Nicholas. “Articles Highlight Different Views on Genetic Basis of Race.” New York Times 27 October 2004: 13. Wade, Nicholas. “Raced-Based Medicine Continued…” New York Times 14 Nov 2004: 12. Yancy, Clyde W. “Does Race Matter in Heart Failure?” American Heart Journal 146 (2003): 203-206. Yancy, Clyde W. “Heart Failure in African Americans: A Cardiovascular Enigma.” Journal of Cardiac Failure 6:3 (2000): 183-186.
Open Document