Nitromed markets race-specific heart drug amid accusations

LEXINGTON, MA: Biotech company NitroMed is working with Spectrum Science as it prepares for the launch of a controversial drug for black patients.

LEXINGTON, MA: Biotech company NitroMed is working with Spectrum Science as it prepares for the launch of a controversial drug for black patients.

BiDil, which treats heart failure in African Americans, has received criticism for being a race-specific therapy.

Scientists agree that blacks have a 2.5 times higher incidence of heart disease than whites. But the issue of whether different racial groups should undergo race-specific treatment is murkier.

NitroMed executives did not return calls for comment.

But in a conference call with investors, Mark Pavao, SVP of sales and marketing, said, "It's a big market that we're going after. We think we have a great story here ... and we think there's an unmet need."

Spectrum Science is handling PR for BiDil. NitroMed has also partnered with the Association for Black Cardiologists to promote the benefits of the drug.

But BiDil's critics have called the drug a "marketing ploy" for NitroMed.

The launch of BiDil is a major step for NitroMed, which is hoping to move from drug development to what Loberg describes as a "fully integrated pharmaceutical company."

With PR, advertising, and medical-education agencies in place, the biotech company's leadership is "transforming NitroMed into a commercial company," Loberg said.

Before the conference call got under way, NitroMed president and CEO Michael Loberg acknowledged the publicity BiDil has generated.

"I know that some of you, because of the media interest, are just joining us" for the first time, he said.

BiDil is undergoing clinical trials. NitroMed released its latest results last week.

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