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12 Minn. J.L. Sci. & Tech. 1 (2011)

handle is hein.journals/mipr12 and id is 1 raw text is: Roberts DE. What's Wrong with Race-Based Medicine?: Genes, Drugs, and
Health Disparities. Minnesota Journal ofLaw, Science & Technology.
What's Wrong with Race-Based Medicine?:
Genes, Drugs, and Health Disparities
Dorothy E. Roberts*
In June 2005, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
announced a historic decision: it approved the first pharma-
ceutical indicated for a specific race.1 BiDil, a combination drug
that relaxes the blood vessels, was authorized to treat heart
failure in self-identified black patients. BiDil had been tested in
the African-American Heart Failure Trial (A-HeFT) launched
in 2001.2 A-HeFT enrolled 1,050 subjects suffering from ad-
vanced heart failure, all self-identified African Americans. A-
HeFT showed that BiDil worked; in fact, it worked so spectacu-
larly that the trial was stopped ahead of schedule. BiDil in-
creased survival by an astonishing 43 percent.3 Hospitaliza-
tions were reduced by 39 percent.4 It was a momentous
C 2011 Dorothy E. Roberts.
*Kirkland & Ellis Professor, Northwestern University School of Law; faculty
fellow, Institute for Policy Research. This article is based on the 2009-2010
Deinard Memorial Lecture on Law & Medicine, delivered February 3, 2010. It
is part of a larger book project, FATAL INVENTION: How SCIENCE, POLITICS,
coming, The New Press, 2011), supported by the National Science Foundation,
the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Kirkland & Ellis Fund. I thank
SJ Chapman for her assistance in preparing this article.
1. Press Release, U.S. Food and Drug Admin., FDA Approves BiDil
Heart Failure Drug for Black Patients (June 23, 2005), available at
2. See Ann L. Taylor et al., Combination of Isosorbide Dinitrate and Hy-
dralazine in Blacks with Heart Failure, 351 NEW ENG. J. MED. 2049, 2049
3. Press Release, supra note 1.
4. Id.; see also Common Questions: BiDil and the African American
Heart Failure Trial (A-HeFT), http://www.bidil.com/pnt/questions.php#l (last
visited October 31, 2010).


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