Orphan drug incentives have stimulated research into diseases with significant unmet medical need.
Although the targeting of orphan diseases is seen by industry as an attractive strategy, there are limited economic data available to support its use. In this paper we show that the revenue-generating potential of orphan drugs is as great as for non-orphan drugs, even though patient populations for rare diseases are significantly smaller. Moreover, we suggest that orphan drugs have greater profitability when considered in the full context of developmental drivers including government financial incentives, smaller clinical trial sizes, shorter clinical trial times and higher rates of regulatory success. The data support the targeting of rare diseases as an important component of a successful biopharma R&D strategy.