Category Archives: Orphan Diseases

Working to Bridge Gaps in Rare Disease Product Development

There are approximately 7,000 rare diseases affecting an estimated 30 million people in the United States. Many
of these diseases are serious or life-threatening and it is estimated that half affect children. Unfortunately, most rare diseases still do not have approved therapies.  In 2018 we saw a record number of novel drugs and biologics approved for rare diseases. In particular, there were 35 novel drugs and biologics approved in 2018 with orphan drug designation. This is the highest number since the passage of the Orphan Drug Act in 1983.

These approvals included drugs and biologics utilizing programs to facilitate and expedite development and review of medical products to address unmet medical need. Among the many new orphan therapies in 2018, the FDA approved the first drug to treat patients with a rare, inherited form of rickets, and the first orally-administered drug to treat Fabry disease. The FDA also approved a new biologic for patients when reversal of anticoagulation is needed due to life-threatening or uncontrolled bleeding.

The FDA will host a public meeting on April 29, 2019: ”Patient Perspectives of the Impact of Rare Diseases: Bridging the Commonalities.” This provides the opportunity to hear patients’ and caregivers’ perspectives on how rare diseases impact their daily lives and to assess commonalities that may help the Agency and medical product developers further understand and advance the development of treatments for rare diseases. While the differences between rare diseases are critically important, it is also important to assess commonalities to synergize product development in rare diseases.

Additionally the grant review process will be enhanced by providing grant reviewers with patient perspectives gleaned from listening sessions with patients about rare diseases. These enhancements will build on new priorities in grant review. Specifically, to address the unmet needs for rare diseases, the Office of Orphan Products has made meaningful changes to both funding focus and review process for the Clinical Trial and Natural History grants programs. They are focusing on studies of rare diseases with unmet needs that use efficient and innovative trial designs, such as adaptive and seamless trial designs, use of modeling and simulations, incorporation of real world data, and basket and umbrella trials studying multiple rare diseases/products. Applicants are asked to incorporate patient input into their research proposals.

Reprint by permission of FDA (Online Public Domain); Image courtesy of PixaBay Free License CC0

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