The case of warfarin is emblematic of a larger dynamic coming to characterize the use of race in biomedical research, development, and marketing. Not only is general use of racial and ethnic categories in biotechnology patents increasing, subsequent race-specific trials, marketing campaigns, and clinical education are also on the rise. The case of warfarin brings to light a common dynamic underlying driving persistence of racial profiling in biomedicine, even as specific genes are being identified. The experience of warfarin calls into question the entire rationale for using race in the “meantime” between current reality and the promise future of truly individual genomic medicine. It also illustrates the inertial power of race to remain prominent in a conceptual system of biomedical analysis once introduced, especially when buttressed by commercial imperatives. Finally, it shows how race is being constructed as a residual category to explain any “unknown” aspects of drug response, creating a new space for the persistence of race in biomedicine.
. Jonathan Kahn, Ph.D., J.D.,is a Professor of Law at Hamline University School of Law.