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Minister Ambrose Announces Patient Involvement Pilot for Orphan Drugs

Input will help shape the role of public contributions to orphan drug approvals

OTTAWA, Aug. 6, 2014 /CNW/ - The Honourable Rona Ambrose, Minister of Health, announced today that the Government of Canada has launched a pilot project targeting patient input from Canadians with rare diseases to help inform future reviews of orphan drugs. As announced in October of 2012, Health Canada has been developing an Orphan Drug Framework to spur innovation and research into new treatments for rare diseases and also to encourage patient participation. The Pilot Project will simulate how input from patients will be gathered and incorporated into the drug submission review process once the Orphan Drug Framework is in effect.

Drug manufacturers, Hoffmann-La Roche Limited and Hyperion Therapeutics, Inc have agreed to participate in the pilot with two of their drug review submissions. The review of Hoffmann-La Roche's medication obinutuzumab for the treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) will be used for the pilot. Hyperion Therapeutics Inc.'s review is for Ravicti ® (glycerol phenylbutyrate) Oral Liquid which is used for the treatment of urea cycle disorders. Hoffmann-La Roche and Hyperion's participation will serve as models for how patient input may inform drug authorization decisions.

Patients will be asked to comment on the following:

  • how the rare disease affects their ability to manage their day-to-day lives;
  • what treatments are currently available (if any);
  • what therapeutic benefits are most important to them; and
  • their risk tolerance for any new treatments.

Health Canada will be asking patient advocacy groups including the Canadian Organization for Rare Disorders to assist in engaging specific Canadian patients affected by CLL or urea cycle disorders to participate in the project. The patient feedback provided during the pilot will assist Health Canada in assessing and refining its approach to gathering patient input. This will ensure that patient perspectives are considered in future orphan drug authorizations.

Quick Facts

  • Orphan drugs are those drugs used to treat rare diseases. A rare disease is a life-threatening, seriously debilitating, or serious chronic condition that only affects a very small number of patients (typically less than 5 in 10,000 persons).
  • When the Orphan Drug Framework is fully implemented, Canadian patients will be invited to participate in future orphan drug authorizations through Health Canada's website.

Patients with CLL or urea cycle disorders, their current or former caregivers or healthcare professionals, and others with first-hand knowledge of CLL or urea cycle disorders are encouraged to contact Health Canada by email if they wish to participate at: [email protected].


"No one has a better understanding of what it means to have a rare disease than the patients who are affected by them. The input of these patient volunteers is absolutely invaluable and our government has committed to making their experiences and perspectives an important addition to our scientific approach to drug assessments for rare diseases."
Rona Ambrose
Minister of Health

"Roche recognizes that patients and patient organizations are playing an increasingly important role in drug review and health technology assessment and bring valuable experience, perspective and insight to the process. As an organization committed to patients, Roche is pleased to participate in this Health Canada pilot program that is seeking patient input within the regulatory review process."
Lorenzo Biondi
Vice President, Medical & Regulatory Affairs, Hoffmann-La Roche Limited

"As part of our full commitment to serving the urea cycle disorder community, we're looking forward to participating in Health Canada's Patient Involvement Pilot Project. Orphan diseases have a dramatic impact on the lives they touch, making this initiative critical to the process of drug review and approval."
Dr. Bruce Scharschmidt
Senior Vice president, Chief Medical and Development Officer, Hyperion Therapeutics, Inc.

"Kudos to Health Canada for recognizing the value of the direct patient voice in the drug review process, for designing a user-friendly template that will encourage patient engagement, and for piloting this in advance of the orphan drug regulations. The Canadian Organization for Rare Disorders is pleased to have had the opportunity to collaborate on this important initiative and to promote this in the patient community."
Durhane Wong-Rieger
President, Canadian Organization for Rare Disorders

Associated Links

Fact Sheet - Orphan Drugs Framework
News Release - Government Takes Action to Help Canadians with Rare Diseases

SOURCE Health Canada

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