The Food and Drug Administration yesterday approved the controversial drug BiDil to treat heart failure specifically in black patients, marking the first time a medication has been targeted at a racial group.
The agency said the approval marked “a step toward the promise of personalized medicine,” and was based on research that found the drug could significantly improve the quality of life for black heart disease patients and markedly reduce their chances of being hospitalized and dying.
But Ferdinand and others expressed reservations about approving a drug specifically for blacks. They cited concern it would provide ammunition for the discredited idea that there are basic biological differences between the races, which historically has been used to justify discrimination.
“It invites people to think there are significant biological distinctions between racial groups when in fact the evidence shows nothing of the sort,” said M. Gregg Bloche of Georgetown University. “There’s a risk of casual thinking that can shade over into discrimination—there’s a substantial risk.”