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Orphan designation

Please note that this product was withdrawn from the Community Register of designated orphan medicinal products in February 2015 at the end of the period of market exclusivity.

On 29 December 2000, orphan designation (EU/3/00/012) was granted by the European Commission to Swedish Orphan AB, Sweden, for nitisinone for the treatment of tyrosinaemia type 1.

Swedish Orphan AB changed name to Swedish Orphan International AB in January 2003 and then to Swedish Orphan Biovitrum International AB, in August 2013.

Nitisinone has been authorised in the EU as Orfadin since 21 February 2005.

For a list of the administrative updates to this public summary of opinion please refer to the PDF document below.

What is tyrosinaemia type-1?

Tyrosinaemia is an inborn error of metabolism, in which the body cannot effectively break down the amino acid (building blocks of proteins in our body) tyrosine. There are three types of tyrosinaemia, each with distinctive symptoms and caused by the deficiency of a different enzyme (a protein that can trigger a chemical reaction in the body). Patients with tyrosinaemia type 1 are born with a defective gene coding for an enzyme called 4-hydroxyphenylpyruvate oxidase. Normally this enzyme breaks down tyrosine. Since tyrosine is not properly broken down by the body, harmful substances build up in the body. This results in damage to the liver and kidneys. Untreated, tyrosinaemia type 1 is chronically debilitating and life-threatening.

What is the estimated number of patients affected by the condition?

At the time of designation, tyrosinaemia type 1 affected not more than 0.1 in 10,000 people in the European Union (EU). This was equivalent to a total of not more than 3,800 people*, and is below the threshold for orphan designation, which is 5 people in 10,000. This isbased on the information provided by the sponsor and the knowledge of the Committee for Orphan Medicinal Products (COMP).

*Disclaimer: For the purpose of the designation, the number of patients affected by the condition is estimated and assessed on the basis of data from the European Union. At the time of designation, this represented a population of 375,500,000 (Eurostat 2000).

What treatments are available?

No medicinal products were authorised for the treatment of tyrosinaemia type 1 in the Community at the time of submission of the application for orphan-drug designation. The therapy included a special diet and symptomatic treatment.

How is this medicinal product expected to act?

Nitisinone blocks the breakdown of tyrosine before it can be transformed into harmful substances. According to the sponsor, nitisinone is expected to limit the liver and kidney damages seen in patients with the condition.

What is the stage of development of this medicinal product?

The effects of nitisinone were evaluated in experimental models. At the time of submission of the application for orphan designation, a clinical trial in patients with tyrosinaemia type 1 was ongoing.

Nitisinone was not marketed anywhere worldwide for the treatment of tyrosinaemia type 1, at the time of submission. Orphan designation of nitisinone was granted in the United States in May 1995 for the condition.

In accordance with Regulation (EC) No 141/2000 of 16 December 1999, the COMP adopted a positive opinion on 27 October 2000 recommending the granting of this designation.

Update: Nitisone (Orfadin) was designated as an orphan drug in Australia in October 2008 for the condition.

Nitisinone (Orfadin) was authorised in the EU on 21 February 2005 for treatment of patients with confirmed diagnosis of hereditary tyrosinaemia type 1 (HT-1) in combination with dietary restriction of tyrosine and phenylalanine.

Opinions on orphan medicinal product designations are based on the following three criteria:
  • the seriousness of the condition;
  • the existence of alternative methods of diagnosis, prevention or treatment;
  • and either the rarity of the condition (affecting not more than five in 10,000 people in the Community) or the insufficient returns on investment.

Designated orphan medicinal products are products that are still under investigation and are considered for orphan designation on the basis of potential activity. An orphan designation is not a marketing authorisation. As a consequence, demonstration of the quality, safety and efficacy is necessary before a product can be granted a marketing authorisation.

Key facts

Product details for <p>Nitisinone</p>
Active substanceNitisinone
Medicine NameOrfadin
Disease/conditionTreatment of tyrosinaemia type 1
Date of decision29/12/2000
Orphan decision numberEU/3/00/012

Review of designation

Related information

Sponsor’s contact details

Swedish Orphan Biovitrum International AB
Drottninggatan 98
111 60 Stockholm
Tel. +46 8 4129800697 20 00
Fax +46 8 697 23 30

Patients' organisations

For contact details of patients’ organisations whose activities are targeted at rare diseases, see:

  • Orphanet, a database containing information on rare diseases which includes a directory of patients’ organisations registered in Europe;
  • European Organisation for Rare Diseases (EURORDIS), a non-governmental alliance of patient organisations and individuals active in the field of rare diseases.