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Background and objective: Little is known about how much public payers spend on orphan medicines. This study aimed at identifying information on orphan medicine expenditure incurred by public payers that was published in literature globally and at possibly synthesising their shares as portion of the total pharmaceutical expenditure. Methods: A literature review was undertaken using Medline, the Orphanet Journal of Rare Diseases and Google Scholar. Titles and abstracts were screened, and full texts of potentially qualifying studies were reviewed for inclusion. Included articles were analysed, and bibliometric parameters as well as public expenditure data on orphan medicines were retrieved. Results: Six hundred forty three articles excluding duplicates were identified. After screening of the abstracts and a review of the full texts, 13 articles qualified for in-depth analysis. The 13 selected articles on orphan pharmaceutical expenditure were published between 2010 and 2018. Survey periods varied between 1 year and 12 years. One publication included 22 countries but the majority of the studies were related to a single country. Expenditure data was available in five of the 13 articles, and eight articles used 'expenditure proxies' such as sales data. Spending data had been sourced from public institutions (4 studies), private providers (5 studies) and a combination of both (3 studies, no information on data source in 1 study). In all included studies, secondary data were analysed. Reported expenditure shares for orphan medicines in relation to total pharmaceutical spend was frequently below 3%. Countries with higher shares included the USA, Canada, the Netherlands and Bulgaria-the latter reporting spending on orphan medicines as high as 9%. Conclusions: A low number of studies that informed about pharmaceutical spending on orphan medicines was published, thereof only a few explicitly analysed expenditure data of public payers. A conclusive synthesis of public spending on orphan medicines is a challenge given to the diversity in methodologies to measure expenditure. There is a need for further research to survey primary data of public spending for orphan medicines, based on a sound methodology to measure these data and to compare them internationally.
Gombocz, M., & Vogler, S. (2020). Public spending on orphan medicines: A review of the literature. Journal of Pharmaceutical Policy and Practice, 13(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40545-020-00260-0