Race-Based Medications, Supplements ‘Misleading,’ Opinion Piece Says
The "development of race-based products such as vitamins and drugs" by pharmaceutical manufacturers is "misleading the public to believe that races are biologically distinct, requiring race-specific products, but the basis for their wares flies in the face of science," Susanne Haga, an assistant research professor at Duke University's Institute for Genome Sciences Policy and Public Policy, writes in a Durham Herald Sun opinion piece. According to Haga, "While there are some differences in disease prevalence among races, there are no diseases or conditions -- and certainly no nutritional requirements -- that are exclusive to just one group." She adds, "If we've learned anything from the last decade of genetics research, it's that our DNA is generally colorblind."
Nubian Health Products and GenSpec offer vitamins and/or dietary supplements specifically for blacks, and NitroMed developed the heart disease treatment BiDil, the first FDA-approved raced-based drug, she notes. "As a genetics researcher and someone of mixed heritage myself, these companies reflect a troubling trend," Haga writes.
She continues, "Given the wide variation within groups, the development of a 'genetically specific' formula would be challenging, to say the least," adding, "The recent increase in the numbers of people who identify with more than one race would seem to pose a rather large problem to the companies marketing race-based products."
Haga writes, "Although genetics is involved in most if not all aspects of our health, the environment plays at least an equal role," adding, "Even if we knew which genes played a part in our dietary needs, it's unlikely those differences would follow perceived racial divides." The industry needs to "look beyond skin color" in the development of personalized medicine, Haga writes (Haga, Durham Herald Sun, 8/22).
A "Today's Topics in Health Disparities" webcast on "Race and Genetics: The Future of Personalized Medicine" is available online.