back to 2011, vol. 17, b. 1

Journal of IMAB - Annual Proceeding (Scientific Papers)
Publisher: Peytchinski, Gospodin Iliev
ISSN: 1312 773X (Online)
Issue: 2011, vol. 17, book 1
Subject Collection: Medicine
Page: 116 - 119
DOI: 10.5272/jimab.2011171.116
Online date: April, 2011

J of IMAB 2011; 17(1):116-119
Mariela Yaneva – Deliverska
Institute for legal sciences, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences .

Rare diseases are characterised by their low prevalence (less than 1/2,000) and their heterogeneity. They affect both children and adults anywhere in the world. From the medical perspective, rare diseases are characterised by the large number and broad diversity of disorders and symptoms that vary not only from disease to disease, but also within the same disease.
Main characteristics of rare diseases include:
· Rare diseases are often chronic, progressive, degenerative, and often life-threatening
· Rare diseases are disabling: the quality of life of patients is often compromised by the lack or loss of autonomy
· High level of pain and suffering for the patient and his/ her family
· No existing effective cure
· There are between 6000 and 8000 rare diseases
· 75% of rare diseases affect children
· 30% of rare disease patients die before the age of 5
· 80% of rare diseases have identified genetic origins. Other rare diseases are the result of infections (bacterial or viral), allergies and environmental causes, or are degenerative and proliferative.
Beyond the diversity of the diseases, rare disease patients and their families are confronted with the same wide range of difficulties arising directly from the rarity of these pathologies. The period between the emergence of the first symptoms and the appropriate diagnosis involves unacceptable and highly risky delays, as well as wrong diagnosis leading to inaccurate treatments. Living with a rare disease has implications in all areas of life, whether school, choice of future work, leisure time with friends, or affective life. It may lead to stigmatisation, isolation, exclusion from social community, discrimination for insurance subscription (health insurance, travel insurance, mortgage), and often reduced professional opportunities.
Innovative treatments are often unevenly available in the EU because of delays in price determination and/or reimbursement decision, lack of experience of the treating physicians (not enough physicians involved in rare diseases clinical trials), and the absence of treatment consensus recommendations.
It is fundamental to realise that rare diseases can affect any family at any time. It is not just “something terrible that happens to other people”. It is a very cruel reality that can happen to anyone, either when having a child or in the course of one’s own life.
In fact, the terminology “rare diseases” only highlights the characteristic of rarity of the complex and heterogeneous mosaic of an estimated 7,000 life-threatening and heavily debilitating conditions.
The rare diseases for which a simple and effective preventive treatment is available are being screened for, as part of public health policy. But this is not enough, and it is essential for public authorities to consider rare diseases as a Public Health priority and take action to concretely support patients and families affected by rare diseases.
As underlined in the Background Paper on Orphan Diseases for the World Health Organisation Report on Priority Medicines for Europe and the World, “despite the growing public awareness of rare diseases in the last one or two decades, there are still many gaps in knowledge related to the development of treatment for rare diseases. Policymakers have to realise that rare diseases are a crucial health issue for about 30 million people in the EU”.
A good medication for rare disease patients is a medication that is both available in the country where they live and affordable. If one of these two factors is missing, the drug is of little use.
Personalized medicine however is an emerging term for a medical philosophy that uses a person’s individual clinical, genetic, genomic, and environmental information to tailor a treatment plan that will maximize efficacy and safety for that individual. While the technology offers much promise, it also is also challenged by some ethical and social questions in both its clinical application and in its research enterprise. Questions about privacy, safety, phenotypical expression, drug interactions, and genetic vs. social group identities will challenge clinical pharmacogenetics.

Key words: Rare disease, Orphan drug,  health policy, policy makers, professional care, diagnosis.

- Download FULL TEXT (PDF 125 KB)

1. European Commission, Euro­barometer, European awareness of Rare Diseases, Feb. 2011
2. EURORDIS, The Voice of 12,000 Patients: Experiences & Expectations of Rare Disease Patients on Diagnosis & Care in Europe, 2009.
3. EURORDIS, Rare diseases: understanding this Public Health Priority, 2005.
4.  Council for Responsible Genetics, Position Paper on Genetic Discrimination, 2001

Please cite this article as: Yaneva-Deliverska M. RARE DISEASES AND GENETIC DISCRIMINATION. J of IMAB 2011; 17(1):116-119. doi: 10.5272/jimab.2011171.116

back to Online Journal