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Orphan designation

Please note that this product was withdrawn from the Community Register of designated orphan medicinal products in March 2015 at the request of the sponsor.

On 5 August 2013, orphan designation (EU/3/13/1175) was granted by the European Commission to Otsuka Pharmaceutical Europe Ltd, United Kingdom, for tolvaptan for the treatment of autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease.

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

What is autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease?

Polycystic kidney disease is an inherited condition marked by the growth of numerous fluid-filled cysts in the kidneys. The growth of cysts eventually affects kidney function and can cause the kidneys to fail. Symptoms include abdominal pain, problems with urinating, high blood pressure and infection.

In most cases polycystic kidney disease is ‘autosomal dominant’, which means that it is caused by gene mutations (defects) that are ‘dominant’ because a person can have the disease even if they have inherited a defective gene from only one parent. Autosomal-dominant polycystic kidney disease is caused by a mutation of either of two genes, PKD1 and PKD2.

Autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease is debilitating in the long term and life-threatening because patients can develop kidney failure and problems with the heart and the gut.

What is the estimated number of patients?

At the time of designation, autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease affected approximately 4 in 10,000 people in the European Union (EU). This was equivalent to a total of around 205,000 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. At the time of designation, this represented a population of 512,200,000 (Eurostat 2013).

What treatments are available?

At the time of designation, there were no satisfactory treatments authorised for autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease in the EU. Treatments that were available targeted symptoms of the disease and included antihypertensive medicines (for high blood pressure), pain killers, antibiotics for infection, dialysis and kidney transplantation.

How is this medicine expected to work?

Tolvaptan is already authorised in the EU for treating hyponatraemia (abnormally low sodium levels). It acts by blocking receptors in the kidney to which the hormone vasopressin attaches, which regulates the level of water and sodium in the body.

In autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease, it is thought that the vasopressin receptors do not function as they should, leading to the formation of fluid-filled cysts. By blocking these receptors, tolvaptan is expected to help slow down cyst formation, thereby improving the symptoms of the disease.

What is the stage of development of this medicine?

The effects of tolvaptan have been evaluated in experimental models.

At the time of submission of the application for orphan designation, clinical trials in patients with autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease were ongoing.

At the time of submission, tolvaptan was not authorised anywhere in the EU for autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease. Orphan designation had been granted in the United States and Japan for the condition.

In accordance with Regulation (EC) No 141/2000 of 16 December 1999, the COMP adopted a positive opinion on 11 July 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>Tolvaptan</p>
Active substanceTolvaptan
Medicine Name
Disease/conditionTreatment of autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease
Date of decision05/08/2013
Orphan decision numberEU/3/13/1175

Review of designation

Please note that this product (marketed as Jinarc) was withdrawn from the Community Register of designated orphan medicinal products in March 2015 at the request of the sponsor, at the time of the granting of a marketing authorisation.

Sponsor’s contact details

Otsuka Pharmaceutical Europe Ltd
Wexham Springs
Framewood Road
Wexham SL3 6PJ
United Kingdom
Tel. +44 (0)1895 207100
Fax +44 (0)1895 207115

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.