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Orphan designation

Please note that this product (marketed as Quinsair) was withdrawn from the Community Register of designated orphan medicinal products in February 2015 upon request of the marketing authorisation holder at the time of the granting of a marketing authorisation.

On 23 September 2008, orphan designation (EU/3/08/566) was granted by the European Commission to Mpex London Ltd, United Kingdom, for levofloxacin hemihydrate for the treatment of cystic fibrosis.

The sponsorship was transferred to Aptalis Pharma SAS, France, in July 2013.

What is cystic fibrosis?

Cystic fibrosis is a hereditary (genetic) disease that affects the production of secretions (such as mucus) from the glands in the body. It affects the lungs and the digestive system (gut) in particular. Cystic fibrosis is caused by abnormalities in a gene called ‘cystic-fibrosis transmembrane-conductance regulator’ (CFTR). The CFTR gene is responsible for the production of CFTR, a protein that regulates the production of mucus and digestive juices by acting as a chloride ion channel to allow proper movement of salt and water in and out of certain cells in the lungs and other tissues. In patients with cystic fibrosis, there is an overproduction of mucus in the lungs and a reduced production of digestive juices from the pancreas (an organ near the stomach). This leads to long-term infection and inflammation of the lungs and problems with the digestion and absorption of food resulting in poor growth.

Cystic fibrosis is a long-lasting and life-threatening disease.

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

At the time of designation, cystic fibrosis affected approximately 1.3 in 10,000 people in the European Union (EU). This was equivalent to a total of around 65,000 people*, and is below the ceiling 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 (EU 27), Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. At the time of designation, this represented a population of 502,800,000 (Eurostat 2008).

What treatments are available?

At the time of submission of the application for orphan-drug designation, lung infection and inflammation in cystic fibrosis were mainly treated with physiotherapy and antibiotics. Other medicines used to treat the lung disease included bronchodilators (medicines that help to open up the airways in the lungs) and mucolytics (medicines that help dissolve the mucus in the lungs). In addition, patients were often given other types of medicine, such as pancreatic enzymes (substances that help to digest and absorb food) and food supplements. They are also advised to exercise and to undergo physiotherapy.

The sponsor has provided sufficient information to show that levofloxacin hemihydrate might be of significant benefit for the patients because it could improve the treatment of lung infection in cystic fibrosis and could be inhaled quickly. This assumption will need to be confirmed at the time of marketing authorisation, in order to maintain the orphan status.

How is this medicine expected to work?

Levofloxacin hemihydrate is an antibiotic that belongs to the group ‘fluoroquinolones’. It works by blocking an enzyme that bacteria use to make more DNA. By doing this, it stops the bacteria that are causing an infection from growing and multiplying. Levofloxacin hemihydrate is currently used to treat various infections as an intravenous infusion or tablets. This sponsor is developing a product containing levofloxacin hemihydrate for inhalation for the treatment of lung infections in patients with cystic fibrosis.

What is the stage of development of this medicine?

The effects of levofloxacin hemihydrate have been evaluated in experimental models.

At the time of submission of the application for orphan designation, clinical trials in patients with cystic fibrosis were ongoing.

The medicinal product was not authorised anywhere in the world for cystic fibrosis at the time of submission. Orphan designation of this product had been granted in the United States for the treatment of lung infections due to Pseudomonas aeruginosa and other bacteria in patients with cystic fibrosis.

In accordance with Regulation (EC) No 141/2000 of 16 December 1999, the COMP adopted a positive opinion on 9 July 2008 recommending the granting of this designation.

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>Levofloxacin hemihydrate</p>
Active substanceLevofloxacin hemihydrate
Medicine Name
Disease/conditionTreatment of cystic fibrosis
Date of decision23/09/2008
Orphan decision numberEU/3/08/566

Review of designation

Sponsor’s contact details

Aptalis Pharma SAS
Route de Bû
78550 Houdan
Tel. +33 1 3046 1900
Fax +33 1 3059 6547

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.