Race-based medicine?

African American heart drug study raises questions about benefits of racially targeted trials

Kerry Grens
Kerry Grens
Nov 18, 2007
A recent study on the effects of a hypertension drug in African Americans has shone the spotlight on the value of single race studies in medicine. While some praise such studies for reaching out to groups disproportionately affected by a disease, others say grouping trial participants by race attributes health disparities to the wrong cause.While clinical trials often look at associations between race and outcomes, it is uncommon for them to be prospectively race-specific. This study compared several different doses of the drug nebivolol - a beta blocker approved in a number of European countries - against placebo, and found the drug significantly lowered blood pressure in African Americans. Beta blockers are thought to be less effective in African American patients than in white Americans. Race-based studies offer "a window of opportunity to understand nuances in medicine," Keith Ferdinand, the chief science officer of the Association of Black Cardiologists,...