Reimbursed Price of Orphan Drugs: Current Strategies and Potential Improvements

Pierpaolo Mincarone, Carlo Giacomo Leo, Saverio Sabina, Antonio Sarriá-Santamera, Domenica Taruscio, Pedro Guillermo Serrano-Aguilar, Panos Kanavos

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The pricing and reimbursement policies for pharmaceuticals are relevant to balance timely and equitable access for all patients, financial sustainability, and reward for valuable innovation. The proliferation of high-cost specialty medicines is particularly true in rare diseases (RDs) where the pricing mechanism is characterised by a lack of transparency. This work provides an overall picture of current strategies for the definition of the reimbursed prices of orphan drugs (ODs) and highlights some potential improvements. Current strategies and suggestions are presented along 4 dimensions: (1) comprehensive value assessment, (2) early dialogs among relevant stakeholders, (3) innovative reimbursement approaches, and (4) societal participation in producing ODs. Comprehensive value assessment could be achieved by clarifying the approach of distributive justice to adopt, ensuring a representative participation of stakeholders, and with a broad consideration of value-bearing factors. With respect to early dialogs, cross-border cooperation can be determinant to companies and agencies. The cost-benefit ratio of early dialogs needs to be demonstrated and the "regulatory capture" effect should be monitored. Innovative reimbursement approaches were developed to balance the need for evidence-based decisions with the timely access to innovative drugs. The societal participation in producing ODs needs to be recognised in a collaborating framework where adaptive agreements can be developed with mutual satisfaction. Such agreements could also impact on coverage and reimbursement decisions as additional elements for the determination of a comprehensive societal value of ODs. Further research is needed to investigate the highlighted open challenges so that RDs will not remain, in practical terms, orphan diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalPublic Health Genomics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Drug Costs
  • Drug Industry/economics
  • Humans
  • Interprofessional Relations
  • Orphan Drug Production/economics
  • Rare Diseases/drug therapy
  • Reimbursement Mechanisms/economics


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