Hydralazine/isosorbide dinitrate
Combination of
Isosorbide dinitrateVasodilator
Clinical data
Trade namesBidil
License data
Routes of
By mouth
ATC code
  • None
Legal status
Legal status
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Hydralazine/isosorbide dinitrate, sold under the brand name Bidil, is a fixed-dose combination medication used to treat self-identified Black people with congestive heart failure.[1] It is a combination of hydralazine hydrochloride (an arteriolar vasodilator) and isosorbide dinitrate (a nitrate vasodilator).[1][2]

The American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved this race-specific medication to treat congestive heart failure in specifically self-identified Black patients. It provoked controversy as the first drug approved by the FDA marketed for a single racial-ethnic group.[3]


From 1980 to 1985, Dr. Jay Cohn of the University of Minnesota led a clinical trial in collaboration with the US Veterans Administration called the Vasodilator-Heart Failure Trial (V-HeFT I) that tested whether the combination of isosorbide dinitrate and hydralazine increased survival in patients with heart failure. The results were promising and a follow up study, V-HeFT II, tested the novel combination against enalapril.[4] Cohn applied for a patent on the combination treatment, which was issued in 1989 as US Patent 4868179.[5] Cohn then licensed the patent to Medco Pharmaceuticals who went on to prepare a New Drug Application (NDA) to approve BiDil on the basis of the V-HeFT trials.[4]

The V-HeFT data was re-analyzed and found that the drug combination appeared to be more effective in treating self-identified African-Americans. This was a significant finding due to prior studies which showed that African-Americans with congestive heart failure (CHF) appeared to respond less effectively to conventional CHF treatments (particularly ACE inhibitors) than White Americans.[6] A new paper was published on these findings and MedCo filed for a new patent for the drug as a treatment for heart failure specifically in black patients.[4][7][8]

The new patent and the old patent were then licensed to a company called NitroMed, which ran a clinical called the African-American Heart Failure Trial (A-HeFT), the results of which were published in 2004 in the New England Journal of Medicine.[9] The clinical trial was stopped early because the drug showed significant benefit; it reduced mortality by 43%, reduced hospitalizations by 39%, and improved quality of life markers in African-American patients with CHF.[9]

On the basis of A-HeFT, the FDA approved BiDil in June 2005.[4][10][11] In 2006, the Heart Failure Society of America included the use of the fixed dose combination of isosorbide dinitrate/hydralazine as the standard of care in the treatment of heart failure in blacks.[12]: e44 

Society and culture


The new drug application claiming treatment of a single, self-identified racial group raised a storm of controversy. Some hailed the development of BiDil as a breakthrough for Black Americans (such groups included the congressional Black Caucus, the Association of Black Cardiologists, the National Medical Association, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) and a step to addressing the unique health care needs and health disparities of the African American community.[13]

Others who criticized the preliminary studies argued that the original study did not have a significant number of African-American subjects to make the BiDil's race specific claims,[14] and that the results of only one clinical trial where African-Americans were tested does not provide a full and comprehensive study.[15] Furthermore, critics argued that self-identified racial identifications from patients as an indicator for race during the trials were not a sufficient categorization method because these self-identifications were socially constructed and have no biological connection to genomic data.[16] They argued that the trials represented a new form of scientific racism where race, a socially constructed category, would continue to be present in research as a placeholder for genomic identification.[4][17][18][19][20][21]

The A-HeFT trial has been the subject of further criticism due to its study design that failed to include a non-African American test group to control for racial factors.[22] According to Jay Cohn, the pill's developer, the reason for including only African American test subjects was the lack of funding for doing a trial in the full population.[23]


  1. ^ a b c "Bidil- hydralazine hydrochloride and isosorbide dinitrate tablet, film coated". DailyMed. 26 January 2021. Retrieved 11 April 2022.
  2. ^ Ferdinand, KC; Elkayam, U; Mancini, D; Ofili, E; Piña, I; Anand, I; Feldman, AM; McNamara, D; Leggett, C (1 July 2014). "Use of isosorbide dinitrate and hydralazine in African-Americans with heart failure 9 years after the African-American Heart Failure Trial". The American Journal of Cardiology. 114 (1): 151–9. doi:10.1016/j.amjcard.2014.04.018. PMID 24846808.
  3. ^ Whitmarsh, Ian; Jones, David S., eds. (2010). What's the Use of Race?: Modern Governance and the Biology of Difference (PDF). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-262-51424-8. Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 8 December 2013.*Rachael Panizzo (21 November 2011). "Book Review: What's the Use of Race? Modern Governance and the Biology of Difference". BioNews. No. 634.
  4. ^ a b c d e Jonathan Kahn. BiDil and Racialized Medicine. Chapter 7 in Race and the Genetic Revolution: Science, Myth, and Culture, Eds Sheldon Krimsky and Kathleen Sloan. Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-52769-9
  5. ^ US4868179
  6. ^ Exner DV, Dries DL, Domanski MJ, Cohn JN (2001). "Lesser response to angiotensin-converting-enzyme inhibitor therapy in blacks as compared with white patients with left ventricular dysfunction". N Engl J Med. 344 (18): 1351–7. doi:10.1056/NEJM200105033441802. PMID 11333991.
  7. ^ Carson P, et al. Racial differences in response to therapy for heart failure: analysis of the vasodilator-heart failure trials. Vasodilator-Heart Failure Trial Study Group J Card Fail. 1999 Sep;5(3):178-87.
  8. ^ US Patent 6465463
  9. ^ a b Taylor AL, Ziesche S, Yancy C, Carson P, D'Agostino R Jr, Ferdinand K, Taylor M, Adams K, Sabolinski M, Worcel M, Cohn JN (2004). "Combination of isosorbide dinitrate and hydralazine in blacks with heart failure". N Engl J Med. 351 (20): 2049–57. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa042934. PMID 15533851. S2CID 12012042.
  10. ^ FDA approval process page
  11. ^ FDA approval press release
  12. ^ Heart Failure Society of America. HFSA 2006 Comprehensive Heart Failure Practice Guideline Archived 2011-07-28 at the Wayback Machine J Card Fail. 2006 Feb;12(1):e1-e122.
  13. ^ Dorothy Roberts. The Color Coded Pill. Chapter 8 in Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-first Century. The New Press. ISBN 978-1-595-58834-0
  14. ^ Roberts 2011, p. 171
  15. ^ Roberts 2011, p. 174
  16. ^ Roberts 2011, p. 175
  17. ^ WNYC Radiolab audio story about racial issues surrounding Bidil
  18. ^ Editors, Scientific American. July 31, 2007 Race-Based Medicine: A Recipe for Controversy
  19. ^ Scientific American article criticizing approval of Bidil
  20. ^ Scientific American article response by manufacturer to previous article's criticism
  21. ^ Response for FDA's Robert Temple to Scientific American article
  22. ^ Puckrein, G. (2006). BiDil: From Another Vantage Point. Health Affairs . Retrieved October 1, 2013, from http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/25/5/w368.long
  23. ^ Saini, Angela (2019). Superior: The Return of Race Science. Beacon Press. p. 246. ISBN 978-0807076910.

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