Orphan Drugs’ Transformation From Neglected Niche To Tantalizing Moneymaker
Critics are worried that a law that was originally created as an incentive for the industry to develop drugs to treat rare diseases has backfired, because it offers companies a period of market exclusivity that prevents competition.
The Washington Post:
High Prices Make Once-Neglected ‘Orphan’ Drugs A Booming Business
Three decades ago, Congress listened to the plight of Americans sick with diseases so rare many people had never heard of them. They were victims of a pharmaceutical market failure — “orphans” ignored by drug companies because, the thinking went, tiny groups of patients would lead to trifling sales. To make the business viable, Congress — pushed by patients and a popular television show that highlighted rare diseases — passed the Orphan Drug Act. The 1983 law offered drug companies attractive tax credits and monopolies to develop treatments for rare diseases, radically transforming the pipeline of orphan drugs. Now, rare diseases are no longer a neglected niche of the pharmaceutical business; they are a tantalizing moneymaking opportunity. (Johnson, 8/4)
In other national health care news —
The New York Times:
Vexing Question On Patient Surveys: Did We Ease Your Pain?
The questionnaire arrives in the mail a few days after a patient’s discharge from the hospital. Did doctors treat you respectfully? Was your bathroom kept clean? Most of the queries seem mundane, but a backlash has been growing against one: Did staff members do everything they could for your pain? (Hoffman and Tavernise, 8/4)
Judge For U.S. Lawsuits To Stop Insurance Mergers May Drop One Case
The judge assigned to rule whether the U.S. government can block the mega-mergers of health insurers Aetna Inc and Humana Inc, and Anthem Inc and Cigna Corp said on Thursday it would be difficult for him to decide both cases by the end of the year. ... Aetna and Humana urged Bates this week to hold trials and issue an opinion by the end of 2016. Bates said in a pre-trial hearing on Thursday that was unlikely to happen. "That's my determination: that I can't do both (by the end of the year)," he said. "Unless the schedule is put off, I'm sending one of the cases back." (Bartz, 8/4)
The New York Times:
N.I.H. May Fund Human-Animal Stem Cell Research
The National Institutes of Health announced on Thursday that it was planning to lift its ban on funding some research that injects human stem cells into animal embryos. The N.I.H. announced its proposal in a blog post by Carrie Wolinetz, the associate director for science policy, and in the Federal Register. The purpose is to try to grow human tissues or organs in animals to better understand human diseases and develop therapies to treat them. (Kolata, 8/4)