2019, Academic Paper

An Analysis of Racial Health Disparities as Related to Race-Based Medicines

LAURA SERBAN

The motivators of racial health disparities in the United States have been continually contested in academic papers and policy proposals. I examine Dorothy Roberts’ rejection of the two arguments for race-neutral economic factors and race-specific genetic differences as the motivators of the disparities, and her subsequent conclusion that racial inequality based on social environments is the true culprit. Using a Baltimore study that found that racial health disparities decrease with the integration of people from different races but from the same socioeconomic status, I explain Roberts’ claim. I then focus the paper beyond Roberts’ argument and on the efficiency of race-based medicines like BiDil, which can be considered a component of the race-specific genetic differences argument. I offer an objection to Roberts by stating that race-based marketing may result in increased access and visibility of important medicines in African American communities that are underrepresented in marketing campaigns. I respond to the objection by stating that race-based marketing shifts the blame for racial health disparities on biological flaws inside African Americans rather than on the flaws of their society and provides manufacturers of race-based medicines an unfair monopoly in African American neighborhoods. I refute this response by stating that rather than creating a monopoly, race-based marketing may persuade more pharmaceutical companies to focus their campaigns on African American communities and thereby increase access to medicines. Finally, I rebut this refutation by agreeing with Roberts that race-based marketing of medicines emphasizes the capacity of pharmaceutical companies to reduce racial disparities while the true cause, social environments caused by racial inequality, remains on the backburner. They provide an opportunity for the government to shift the burden of addressing racial health disparities onto companies while ignoring that fact that it is social environment, not access to medicines, that creates diseases in the first place.

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