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Tuesday, November 02, 2004

'Ethnic drug' raises fears over race and genetics

'Ethnic drug' raises fears over race and genetics - Telegraph

By Roger Highfield, Science Editor
(Filed: 01/11/2004) :: Story in full below

The development of the first 'ethnic drug' could reignite the race debate and even cause harm without a deeper understanding of the genetic basis behind such medicines, a professor warned yesterday.

Next month the American Heart Association will be given details of a major trial on black people of the heart failure drug BiDil, which was ended prematurely because the results were so encouraging.

The company NitroMed hopes to market the drug to African-Americans next year, if it gets regulatory approval, but the collision of race and genetics in medicine is stirring unease.

Yesterday Prof David Goldstein, of University College London, argued that, while "some medicines do work differently in different racial groups", there was a danger of oversimplifying the situation.

He was worried that race and ethnicity were "crude simplifying labels" for the genetic differences between people and that misinterpretation could lead to the inappropriate use of such drugs. Differences in the genetic make-up of people within a racial group mean that they could react differently to a drug. "We need to dig deeper to find out what causes these differences and then test for the genes involved, not market drugs on the basis of race," he said.

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