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Orphan designation

On 8 February 2013, orphan designation (EU/3/13/1103) was granted by the European Commission to SciPharm S.a.r.L, Luxembourg, for treprostinil sodium for the treatment of chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension.

What is chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension?

Chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension is a condition where there is high blood pressure in the arteries that supply the lungs. The increased blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs is caused by a blockage due to blood clots, which results in progressive narrowing of such arteries and a subsequent thickening in the muscles in the walls of the arteries, making it harder for the heart to pump blood to the lungs.

Chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension is chronically debilitating due to symptoms such as fatigue and dyspnoea (difficulty breathing), which limit daily activities. If untreated it may also be life-threatening due to the development of heart failure.

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

At the time of designation, chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension affected between 0.10 and 0.52 in 10,000 people in the European Union (EU). This was equivalent to a total of between about 5,000 and 26,000 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 509,000,000 (Eurostat 2013).

What treatments are available?

At the time of designation, no medicines were authorised in the EU specifically for chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension. Some patients were treated with surgery or lung transplantation.

How is this medicine expected to work?

Treprostinil sodium is a molecule that is very similar to prostacyclin, a natural substance that dilates (widens) the blood vessels and prevents blood clotting. In patients with chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension, treprostinil sodium is expected to act in the same way as prostacyclin to dilate the pulmonary arteries and prevent blood clotting, lowering the blood pressure in the pulmonary artery and improving the symptoms of the disease.

What is the stage of development of this medicine?

The effects of treprostinil sodium have been evaluated in experimental models.

At the time of submission of the application for orphan designation, no clinical trials with treprostinil sodium initiated by the sponsor in patients with chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension had been started.

Treprostinil sodium was authorised in the United States and in many EU Member States for the treatment of pulmonary arterial hypertension, which is another type of pulmonary hypertension.

At the time of submission, treprostinil sodium was not authorised anywhere in the EU for chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension or designated as an orphan medicinal product elsewhere for this condition.

In accordance with Regulation (EC) No 141/2000 of 16 December 1999, the COMP adopted a positive opinion on 9 January 2013 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.

Key facts

Product details for <p>Treprostinil sodium</p>
Active substanceTreprostinil sodium
Medicine Name
Disease/conditionTreatment of chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension
Date of decision08/02/2013
Orphan decision numberEU/3/13/1103

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:

SciPharm S.a.r.L
26-28, rue Edward Steichen
Telephone: +352 621 787119

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.