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What is meant by the term "orphan drugs"?

Learn what makes a drug an orphan drug.

Orphan drugs refer to medications that treat less common diseases. [©Shutterstock, 2010]
©Shutterstock, 2010
Orphan drugs refer to medications that treat less common diseases.

Orphan drugs are intended to treat diseases that affect fewer than 200,000 Americans. With little chance of making money, a drug company is not likely to undertake the necessary research and expense of finding drugs that might treat these diseases.

The Orphan Drug Act of 1983 offers a number of incentives to drug companies to encourage development of these drugs. The act has provided hope for millions of people with rare and otherwise untreatable conditions.

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