Grassroots Marketing in a Global Era: More Lessons from BiDil
Article first published online: 11 FEB 2011
© 2011 American Society of Law, Medicine & Ethics, Inc.
The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics
Volume 39, Issue 1, pages 79–90, Spring 2011
How to Cite
Rusert, B. M. and Royal, C. D. M. (2011), Grassroots Marketing in a Global Era: More Lessons from BiDil. The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, 39: 79–90. doi: 10.1111/j.1748-720X.2011.00552.x
- Issue published online: 11 FEB 2011
- Article first published online: 11 FEB 2011
BiDil, a heart failure drug for African Americans, emerged five years ago as the first FDA approved drug targeted at a specific racial group. While critical scholarship and the popular media have meticulously detailed the history of BiDil from its inauspicious beginnings as a generic combination drug for the general population to its dramatic resuscitation as a racial medicine, the enthusiastic support shown by some African American interest groups has been too little understood, as has their argument that BiDil was an important response to race-based health disparities. In this essay, we show how the drugmaker, NitroMed, used the support it had solicited from black advocacy groups and community members to market BiDil as a unique “grassroots” pharmaceutical to the African American community. We go on to situate BiDil, which relied on a domestic, U.S.-centered conception of race, within the context of the global nature of both race and health disparities. Ironically, the grassroots angle of the BiDil case ultimately obscured the global crisis in health disparities. Furthermore, we argue that the grassroots model initiated by NitroMed should be taken note of, as it marks a potential avenue for the marketing of other drugs in the future.