Rare diseases provide a challenge in the evaluation of new therapies. However, orphan drug development is of increasing interest because of the legislation enabling facilitated support by regulatory agencies through scientific advice, and the protection of the molecules with orphan designation.
In the landscape of the rare epilepsies, very few syndromes, namely Dravet syndrome, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and West syndrome, have been subject to orphan drug development. Despite orphan designations for rare epilepsies having dramatically increased in the past 10 years, the number of approved drugs remains limited and restricted to a handful of epilepsy syndromes.
In this paper, researchers describe the current state of orphan drug development for rare epilepsies. They identified a large number of compounds currently under investigation, but mostly in the same rare epilepsy syndromes as in the past. A rationale for further development in rare epilepsies could be based on the match between the drug mechanisms of action and the knowledge of the causative gene mutation or by evidence from animal models. In case of the absence of strong pathophysiological hypotheses, exploratory/basket clinical studies could be helpful to identify a subpopulation that may benefit from the new drug.
The team provides some suggestions for future improvements in orphan drug development such as promoting pediatric drug investigations, better evaluation of the incidence and the prevalence, together with the natural history data, and the development of new primary outcomes.