Orphan drugs and diseases

A free market economy is liable to leave untreated, rare diseases, e.g. some cancers (in all countries) and some common diseases, e.g. parasitic infections (in poor countries).

Where a drug is not developed into a usable medicine because the developer will not recover the costs then it is known as an orphan drug, and the disease is an orphan disease; the sufferer is a health orphan.14 Drugs for rare diseases inevitably must often be licensed on less than ideal amounts of clinical evidence.

The remedy for these situations lies in government itself undertaking drug development (which is likely to be inefficient) or in government-offered incentives, e.g. tax relief, subsidies, exclusive marketing rights, to pharmaceutical companies and, in the case of poor countries, international aid programmes; such programmes are being implemented.15

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