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Health Policy. 2012 Nov;108(1):10-8. doi: 10.1016/j.healthpol.2012.08.013. Epub 2012 Aug 29.

Challenges to orphan drugs access in Eastern Europe: the case of Bulgaria.

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Clinical and Information Centre for Rare Diseases, Plovdiv, Bulgaria.


This article explores how an Eastern European country could deal with orphan drugs access, combining EU policies with its own national settings. The cross-sectional observational study takes the total number of orphan drugs (61) available on EU level by March 2011, and then consecutively filters it through the requirements and criteria of relevant Bulgarian legislation on registration, pricing and reimbursement of medicinal products, obtaining the final number of accessible orphan drugs (16) in Bulgaria. The study further evaluates the average time period from market authorisation to positive reimbursement decision by Bulgarian health authorities (43±29.1 months). Access to orphan drugs should be provided on a reasonable and justified basis. Having in mind the limited availability of resources, it is not a question whether to prioritise rarity, but to create legitimate mechanisms for properly assessing orphan drugs' value and optimally using this value, according to the society's needs and views. The analysis identifies four important challenges to orphan drugs' access in Eastern Europe: (1) elaboration of new orphan drugs pricing approaches, (2) further interaction of cost-effectiveness analysis with medical criteria, (3) active introduction of epidemiological registries for rare diseases, and (4) research of societal preferences and raising public awareness.

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