The Colour-Coded Prescription
BBC Radio 4's Analysis: The Colour-Coded Prescription, was broadcast on Thursday, 17 November, 2005 at 20:30 GMT.

This Analysis programme is excellent. It dispels the idea that there is a simple relationship between race and genetic vulnerabilities and strengths, but explains that there are probabilities that can assist in the broad assessment of risk. Our global genetic structure has been mixed so that various traits can be found in some individuals in most geographic populations. There is no doubt that in time, medicines more tailored to specific genetic groups may well be identified, but the application will cut across the simplistic ideas of race that are the subject of current politics. Out of a development related to medicine is coming a better knowledge of humanity as a whole.

Read the programme transcript     (all of it, please!)

Programme Introduction:
For decades scientists have told us that "race" isn't a biological reality - yet the American authorities have just licensed a heart drug to be used solely on African-Americans. It is the first-ever racially-specific medicine and it is controversial.

However, it is likely that we in Britain will soon be using different drugs for different races, too. Already many doctors give different amount of drugs - such as Prozac - to different races. In the meantime geneticists have created a software programme that can distinguish between Africans, Europeans, East Asians, Polynesians, Australian Aborigines and Native Americans from DNA samples alone.

Does all this herald the return of racial science through the backdoor? Or has science simply become more grown-up about racial differences? If so should the rest of us also become more grown up about race? Should we dispense with the idea that science disproves the idea of race?

And if we are moving into an era of race-based medicine where drugs and treatments are allocated according to racial criteria, will that help disadvantaged groups or will it create an apartheid health system in the UK?