On 27 September 2011, orphan designation (EU/3/11/909) was granted by the European Commission to Actelion Registration Limited, United Kingdom, for macitentan for the treatment of pulmonary arterial hypertension.
- What is pulmonary arterial hypertension?
Pulmonary arterial hypertension is a condition where there is high blood pressure in the arteries that supply the lungs. In patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension, there is a thickening of the muscles in the walls of the arteries and a narrowing of the arteries in the lungs, making it harder for blood to flow to the lungs. Pulmonary arterial hypertension is a long-term debilitating and life-threatening condition that shortens patients’ life expectancy because it may lead to heart failure and difficulty breathing.
- What is the estimated number of patients affected by the condition?
At the time of designation, pulmonary arterial hypertension affected less than 1.8 in 10,000 people in the European Union (EU)*. This is equivalent to a total of fewer than 91,000 people, and is below the ceiling for orphan designation, which is 5 people in 10,000. This is based 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. This represents a population of 506,300,000 (Eurostat 2011).
- What treatments are available?
Several medicines were authorised for the treatment of pulmonary arterial hypertension in the EU at the time of designation. They included bosentan, ambrisentan, tadalafil, sildenafil, iloprost, epoprostenol, and treprostinil sodium. Surgery was also used in some patients to carry out a lung transplant or atrial septostomy (where a small hole is created between the upper two chambers of the heart, the atria).
The sponsor has provided sufficient information to show that macitentan might be of significant benefit for patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension because it may penetrate the diseased tissue more effectively than current treatments with a similar mechanism of action, which may improve the outcome of patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension, particularly when used in combination with existing treatments. 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?
Macitentan is expected to work as an ‘endothelin receptor antagonist’. This means that it is expected to block the receptors (type A and B) which the substance called ‘endothelin-1’ normally attaches to and activates. Endothelin is a naturally occurring substance that is released from lining of the blood vessels. It is present at raised levels in patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension, causing the blood vessels to constrict and the blood vessel walls to thicken. By blocking endothelin receptors , macitentan is expected to stop endothelin from constricting the blood vessels, thereby leading to a decrease in the blood pressure and a reduction of the symptoms of pulmonary arterial hypertension.
- What is the stage of development of this medicine?
The effects of macitentan have been evaluated in experimental models.
At the time of submission of the application for orphan designation, clinical trials with macitentan in patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension were ongoing.
At the time of submission, macitentan was not authorised anywhere in the EU for pulmonary arterial hypertension. Orphan designation of macitentan had been granted in the United States for the treatment of pulmonary arterial hypertension.
In accordance with Regulation (EC) No 141/2000 of 16 December 1999, the COMP adopted a positive opinion on 8 July 2011 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;
- either the rarity of the condition (affecting not more than 5 in 10,000 people in the EU) or 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 quality, safety and efficacy is necessary before a product can be granted a marketing authorisation.
|Name||Language||First published||Last updated|
|EU/3/11/909: Public summary of opinion on orphan designation: Macitentan for the treatment of pulmonary arterial hypertension||(English only)||17/10/2011|
|Disease/condition||Treatment of pulmonary arterial hypertension|
|Date of decision||27/09/2011|
|Orphan decision number||EU/3/11/909|
Review of designation
The Committee for Orphan Medicinal Products reviews the orphan designation of a product if it is approved for marketing authorisation.
Sponsor’s contact details:
Actelion Registration Limited
BSI Building 13th floor
389 Chiswick High Road
London W4 4AL
Telephone: + 44 208 987 3320
Telefax: + 44 208 987 3322
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.