The Troubling Persistence of Race in Pharmacogenomics

Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, 40: 873-885 (2012)

J. Kahn, Race in a Bottle: The Story of BiDil and Racialized Medicine in a Post-Genomic Age, Columbia University Press, 2012

13 Pages Posted: 9 Jan 2013  

Jonathan D. Kahn

Mitchell Hamline School of Law

Date Written: Winter 2012

Abstract

This article is concerned about what may be happening to race and medicine in the “meantime” between today's clinical realities and the promised land of pharmacogenomics where the need for using race in medicine is supposed to fade away. It argues that previous debates over the use of race in medicine are being side-stepped as race is being reconfigured from a “crude surrogate” for genetic variation into a purportedly viable placeholder for variable drug response — to be used here and now until the specific genetic underpinnings of drug response are more fully understood. Embracing the trope of “promise” in pharmacogenomics alongside the idea of using race as a useful interim proxy for genetic variation raises concerns that new diagnostic and therapeutic interventions may reflect or be mapped upon existing social categories of race, class, gender, and ethnicity in a harmful or dangerous manner. At the most basic level, the politics of the meantime in pharmacogenomics may be promoting the scientifically unjustified and socially dangerous recasting of race as a social and historical construct into a refined genetic category.

Keywords: Race, Medicine. Pharmacogenomics, Genetics, Ethnicity, Disparities, Medicine, Health, Intellectual Property, Discrimination

JEL Classification: I10, I12, I18, J7, J71, J78, K32, L65, O34

Suggested Citation

Kahn, Jonathan D., The Troubling Persistence of Race in Pharmacogenomics (Winter 2012). J. Kahn, Race in a Bottle: The Story of BiDil and Racialized Medicine in a Post-Genomic Age, Columbia University Press, 2012. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2198545

Jonathan D. Kahn (Contact Author)

Mitchell Hamline School of Law ( email )

875 Summit Ave
St. Paul, MN 55105-3076
United States

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