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Race, Genetics Could 'Disrupt' Pursuit of Using DNA to Tailor Medicine

by Medindia Content Team on November 16, 2007 at 4:21 PM
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Race, Genetics Could 'Disrupt' Pursuit of Using DNA to Tailor Medicine

"Recent discoveries about our genetic makeup have turned medicine, science and even our legal system into high-stakes players in a DNA lottery, one that could affect the treatment people receive for cardiac care, diabetes and other diseases," Karla Holloway, a Duke University law professor, writes in a Raleigh News & Observer opinion piece.

Holloway writes that "extracting DNA information ... is so closely tied to the complicated issue of race in this country that it seems impossible to separate the two." Holloway makes reference to BiDil, the first heart disease drug specifically targeted to blacks, noting that not all blacks physically appear or identify themselves as black.

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She asks, "[W]hat kinds of determinations do physicians make before they consider BiDil as a treatment option? ... Exactly what percentage of African ancestry must one have to merit a particular drug marketed to black folks?"

She adds that the "goal of genetic science is appropriately targeted toward medical decisions that are individual. A person's genetic makeup will one day lead to very specific, indeed individualized medical advice. But as long as we equate
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genetics and race, we bring along a set of biases that could disrupt this important medical objective and urge the short cut of race as a stand-in for the scientific question." Holloway writes, "It's a slippery slope that could discourage our consideration of medically significant issues such as nutrition, stress and lifestyle".

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation
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