Pediatric Orphan Drug Indications: 2010-2018


Orphan drug development is crucial for children, who are disproportionately affected by rare diseases. Data are lacking on the number, nature, and benefit of recently approved pediatric orphan indications.


We classified the 402 orphan indications the US Food and Drug Administration approved between 2010 and 2018 as “pediatric” if they were approved for children only or targeted pediatric diseases. We determined the number of unique diseases targeted by pediatric orphan indications and calculated the proportion that were for (1) novel drugs, (2) non-novel drugs approved to treat ≥1 common disease, and (3) non-novel drugs approved only to treat rare diseases. Among pediatric orphan indications eligible for US Food and Drug Administration breakthrough designation (granted to drugs potentially representing major therapeutic advances), we calculated the proportion receiving this designation.


Of the 402 orphan indications, 136 (33.8%) were pediatric. These 136 indications targeted 87 unique diseases; 21 diseases were targeted by ≥1 indication. Of the 136 pediatric orphan indications, 60 (44.1%) were for novel drugs, 45 (33.1%) were for non-novel drugs approved to treat ≥1 common disease, and 31 (22.8%) were for non-novel drugs approved only to treat rare diseases. Among 97 indications eligible for breakthrough designation, 20 (20.6%) received this designation.


Recent orphan drug development has increased the availability of treatments for pediatric rare diseases. Most pediatric orphan indications expanded use of existing drugs, and many targeted the same disease. Some indications may represent breakthroughs, but substantial unmet need for treatments remains for most pediatric rare diseases.

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