Gray area for new heart failure drug

Although the FDA approved BiDil for blacks with heart failure, it may work in anyone.

A "new" drug called BiDil (it's actually two old ones) is the first medication approved for a particular racial group, in this case blacks with moderate-to-severe heart failure. The interesting thing is, it may work just as well for members of other racial or ethnic groups with this all-too-common condition.

The FDA's approval of BiDil raised a ruckus in the medical community. Some experts see the approval of BiDil as a steppingstone to the goal of personalized medicine, with race serving as a stand-in for genetic variations that may point the way to safer, more effective medication use. Others criticize it as a cynical type of marketing driven by a race-specific patent that gives the drug's maker the exclusive right to make it (and profit from it) until 2020, while another existing patent with no racial specification expires much sooner.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »