Pharmacogenetics and ethnically targeted therapies

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.330.7499.1036 (Published 05 May 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:1036
  1. Taslin Rahemtulla, research associate,
  2. Raj Bhopal, professor of public health (raj.bhopal@ed.ac.uk)
  1. Public Health Sciences, Division of Community Health Sciences, University of Edinburgh, Medical School, Edinburgh EH8 9AG

    New drug BiDil marks the return of biology to the debate about race and ethnicity

    In modern conceptions of race and ethnicity, biology has been relegated to a minor underlying factor.1 Instead, these concepts have been cast as largely social constructions.2 For example, race traditionally distinguishes between groups according to a mixture of physical characteristics (including skin colour), which reflect ancestry and hence biology. A modern conception of race would place the emphasis on a common social and political heritage. Similarly, ethnicity puts emphasis on distinguishing between groups by using a mixture of cultural factors, including language and religion.2 Recent developments in pharmacogenetics, however, renew the historical emphasis on biology in concepts of race and ethnicity. Pharmacogeneticists examine whether different responses to drug treatment may be attributable to genetic differences. They are focusing on race and ethnicity as a means to this end. A recent international conference, the 8th world congress on clinical pharmacology and therapeutics, in Brisbane, Australia, had an afternoon on ethnopharmacology, showing how seriously this new subject is being taken.3 …

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