Orphan Drugs

  • Maurizio Scarpa
  • Cinzia Bellettato
  • Christina Lampe
Living reference work entry

Abstract

Pharmacological research and biotechnology sciences have always been focused at developing new therapeutic strategies capable of modifying diseases’ natural history and improving patients’ quality of life all around the world. Nevertheless, many diseases are still lacking specific therapies, and this is particularly true for the so-called orphan diseases where the terms orphan is used to designate diseases that affect only small numbers of individuals. Due to their relatively low prevalence, these diseases are not considered economically appealing and viable under ordinary marketing conditions by pharmaceutical companies. Moreover, developing a new medicine is extremely challenging due to the related high costs and low rate of success. To overcome these problems, special orphan drug legislations have been introduced across the globe in order to encourage and stimulate the research, the development, and the approval of drugs capable to treat rare diseases. The advent of orphan drug legislations has marked an important milestone in pharmacological development and has raised hope for the most neglected patients such as those affected by neuronopathic lysosomal storage diseases (LSDs). These disorders are in fact chronic progressive diseases that have a devastating impact on the patient and family. Being characterized by high morbidity and mortality, they still constitute a big challenge for the therapeutic area. Many of orphan drugs available today can in fact almost reverse the natural history of the disease in peripheral organs (i.e., enzyme replacement therapy) but unfortunately, due to the presence of the blood–brain barrier (BBB), are still unable to effectively reach the central nervous system to stop the disease lethal progression. This chapter will discuss in detail these issues, evaluating the advancements in the field that have already been done and that have led to the marketing approval for several orphan drugs for LSDs. An analysis of their strength and weaknesses will be done, and a description of the most important innovative initiatives using different approaches to specifically deliver molecules across the BBB will be performed.

Keywords

Enzyme Replacement Therapy Fabry Disease Gauche Disease Orphan Drug Pompe Disease 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maurizio Scarpa
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Cinzia Bellettato
    • 3
  • Christina Lampe
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Center of Rare DiseasesHorst Schmidt KlinikWiesbadenGermany
  2. 2.Department of PediatricsUniversity of PadovaPadovaItaly
  3. 3.Brains for Brain FoundationPadovaItaly

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