NitroMed's BiDil recently received FDA approval as the first drug targeted exclusively for a racial group -- African Americans with heart failure. Although this condition affects Americans by the hundreds of thousands, BiDil's label will effectively read that Whites, Latinos, East and South Asians and folks from the Middle East need not buy; only those whom society considers "black" -- a concept as slippery as pinpointing the race of Michael Jackson, Soledad O'Brien or Mariah Carey -- should take this drug.
Does this make sense? Is this good science? BiDil has been met with both celebration and admonition. Many scientists see this as the pharmaceutical man landing on the genomic moon -- a bold first step to a future where medications are developed specifically for individuals' biochemical predispositions. A number of black physicians are joining NitroMed shareholders' jubilations. Charles L. Curry, president of the International Society on Hypertension in Blacks, told the Washington Post that BiDil is "the most significant advance in the treatment of black people that [he had] seen in [his] lifetime." So much for penicillin.