Orphan Drug Act


ANNCR: The Orphan Drug Act – on Today's Congressional Moment.

The Orphan Drug Act is not about children without parents. The term “orphan drugs” refers to medical products that would not be adopted by major pharmaceutical companies because they serve only a very small portion of the population — people with rare diseases.

A rare disease is defined by the Orphan Drug Act as one that affects fewer than 200,000 people —some only affect 100. Prior to the act, large drug companies had little incentive to research and develop new drugs for such patient groups. The people who suffered from these disorders were often just out–of–luck.

In 1980, Representative Henry Waxman from California, began to hold hearings in Congress to look into the problem of those suffering from rare diseases. But his efforts sparked little interest, until actor Jack Klugman heard about it, and thought “orphan drugs” would be a good topic to highlight on his TV show Quincy. His programs caught the attention of millions of Americans who wanted to help, and were a major factor in helping to move the bill through Congress.

on January 4, 1983, the Orphan Drug Act became law, providing tax credits and marketing protections to pharmaceutical companies developing “orphan drugs”. Since then, this law has helped the lives of millions of Americans, whose fate looked bleak because of their affliction with a rare disease.

STANDARD CLOSING: This is Lee Hamilton. Congressional decisions impact all our lives. To find out more about how Congress works, or to get involved in your government, visit the Center On Congress website at congress.indiana.edu.