From Scientific American editor Gary Stix :
The August issue of Scientific American included an article entitled "Race in a Bottle," by Jonathan Kahn, which portrays the development of BiDil, the first "ethnic" drug. Part of the controversy surrounding BiDil relates to the use of race as a surrogate for genetics. In other words, absent knowledge about specific genes that predispose a person to a given disease, race sometimes indicates who will best respond to a medicine designed to treat that disease.
The FDA's approval of the drug for African-Americans was contentious because of the imprecision of race as a surrogate genetic marker. As Kahn points out in the article, there is more variability among two individuals in the same racial group than there is among the races, which undercuts the notion of a biological basis for racial categorization. The implication is that if further clinical trials of the drug had been conducted, BiDil might have also proved effective for heart-failure patients who do not identify themselves as African-American.
Nonetheless, critics of Kahn's arguments have come forth. Most recently, Roger D. Masters, a Dartmouth College professor, wrote a critique (pdf) that points to evidence that both toxic chemicals and race are linked to heart disease and hypertension. Masters' comments join other critical remarks that we received after publishing Kahn's article, which were collected in an In Focus Web feature, "Race-Based Medicine: A Recipe for Controversy."
From Master's critique:
Jonathan Kahn's report on FDA approval of BiDil, a drug targeted to hypertension in blacks (Scientific American, Aug. 2007, pp. 40-45), fails to consider abundant evidence linking both toxic chemicals and race to hypertension and heart disease.