updated 1/20/2010 3:45:56 PM ET 2010-01-20T20:45:56

Drugmakers appear to be focusing more on research into treatments for rare diseases, according to a survey by Tufts University.

  1. Don't miss these Health stories
    1. Splash News
      More women opting for preventive mastectomy - but should they be?

      Rates of women who are opting for preventive mastectomies, such as Angeline Jolie, have increased by an estimated 50 percent in recent years, experts say. But many doctors are puzzled because the operation doesn't carry a 100 percent guarantee, it's major surgery -- and women have other options, from a once-a-day pill to careful monitoring.

    2. Larry Page's damaged vocal cords: Treatment comes with trade-offs
    3. Report questioning salt guidelines riles heart experts
    4. CDC: 2012 was deadliest year for West Nile in US
    5. What stresses moms most? Themselves, survey says

The survey suggested that applications for orphan drug approvals doubled during the last decade.

Orphan drugs are treatments for very rare diseases that are often genetic. Governments often provide incentives like tax credits and extended protection from generic competition to encourage the research.

The Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development says the Food and Drug Administration granted orphan drug status to 425 experimental products between 2006 and 2008, up from 208 between 2000 and 2002.

In the U.S., a product can be designated an orphan drug if it is meant to treat an illness than affects fewer than 200,000 people. In Europe, it goes to drugs for diseases affecting five out of every 10,000 people.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments