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Identifying Ethnicity in Medical Papers

The question of the utility of ethnic identifications is more complex for reports of epidemiologic research (710) or clinical trials. Genetic and cultural characteristics of ethnic groups could be determinants of disease or its severity (7) in at least some members. The finding of a higher prevalence or incidence of a disease in one ethnic group than in another could be a valuable clue to an etiologic agent. The finding of a different response to, or a different frequency of an adverse effect from, a drug in one ethnic group compared with another (11) could be a valuable guide to decisions on dosage or a clue to mechanisms affecting a drug's mechanism of action or metabolism. The practical difficulties in ascertaining all potentially relevant genetic and cultural characteristics of individual subjects in epidemiologic research and clinical trials may force investigators to rely simply on ethnicgroup designations of persons for assessing how those characteristics might account for findings. Hence, identifying the ethnicity of persons covered by an epidemiologic study or treated in a clinical trial may be a legitimate part of study designs for such research.