Pharmaceutical and biotech companies are running patient tests of more than 5,400 potential new medicines, including many being tested for multiple conditions. Nearly 1,800 research projects are for rare diseases, and hundreds more are for disorders for which there’s been no new medicine in a decade or more….
[The companies are] trying to develop “specialty” or niche drugs meant for much smaller groups of patients but carrying six-figure price tags. And more companies are taking advantage of grants, tax credits and other incentives of the Orphan Drug Act passed in 1983. In the preceding decade, only 10 drugs for rare diseases had been approved, but more than 350 were approved from 1984 through 2011.