Orphan Drug Status Given to SGN-35

Recently I blogged about Biotech company Seattle Genetics and their emerging treatment for both Hodgkin’s and anaplastic large cell lymphoma, a drug currently called SGN-35.

Good news this week: both the FDA and the European Medicines Agency have given SGN-35 what’s known as orphan drug status. An orphan drug is in general defined as a drug so specialized that it only treats a disease affecting a very small portion of the population. The designation is somewhat rare, and for the pharmaceutical company, an absolute boon: In the US, the status confers a number of both financial and legal incentives for the company to test, produce and market a drug that would otherwise be cost-prohibitive.

What this means is that Seattle Genetics can really get the ball rolling on SGN-35 without fear of competition and with the help of government subsidies, among other things. While it’s all a bit more complicated that this, and while it might fundamentally seem to violate the principles of a free market, we can’t look at it this way.

Rather, we should look at it as an interventionalist health policy that eschews lengthy red tape on behalf of those patients whom the drug can benefit the most.

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