Infographic: Which Rare Diseases Are The Most Common?
Pharmaceuticals have come a long way since the apothecary days of prescribing cocaine drops for toothaches, or dispensing tapeworm diet pills.
Today, medical breakthroughs like antibiotics and vaccines save millions of lives, and contribute to the industry’s mammoth size. Yet even with rapid advancements, a select group of rare diseases still fly under the radar — and together, they affect over 350 million people worldwide.
What Are Rare Diseases?
Today’s infographic from Raconteur breaks down occurrence rates of notable rare diseases, and their collective impact on pharmaceutical drug sales. But first, let’s look at how they’re defined.
Diseases are considered rare, or “orphan” if they affect only a small proportion of the population. In general, it’s estimated that 1 in 17 people will be afflicted by a rare disease in their lifetime. At the same time, as many as 7,000 rare diseases exist, with more discovered every year.
A report by the global investment bank Torreya looks at the most common types of rare diseases that are a focus for therapeutic companies around the world:
- Multiple sclerosis emerges above all others, at 90 patients per 100,000 people.
- Narcolepsy—intermittent, uncontrollable episodes of sleepiness—affects 50 patients per 100,000.
- Primary biliary cholangitis, the damage of bile ducts in the liver, affects 40 people in 100,000.
- Rounding out the top five orphan diseases are Fabry disease (30 patients per 100,000), and cystic fibrosis (25 patients per 100,000).
One catch behind these stats? There’s actually no universal definition of what constitutes a rare disease. This means prevalence data like the above is often inconsistent, making it difficult to record the precise rate of natural occurrence.
The Cost of Rare Diseases
This gap in knowledge comes at a price—many rare diseases have constrained options for treatment. Orphan drugs are often commercially underdeveloped, as their limited end-market usage means they aren’t usually profitable enough for traditional research.
In the United States, government-backed incentives such as tax credits for R&D costs and clinical trials are speeding up the pathways from drug to market. Other places like the EU, Japan, and Australia are also following suit.
In total, it’s estimated that pharma companies focused on rare diseases are worth about half a trillion in enterprise value, roughly equal to 17.5% of the value of Big Pharma:
- Non-oncology value: $315.7B
- Oncology value: $193.1B
- Total enterprise value: $508.8B
Source: Torreya Report. Market values are for the top 31 pure play rare disease therapeutic companies.
The average cost of an orphan drug per U.S. patient annually can climb to near $151,000 (a whopping 4.5 times that of a non-orphan drug, at $34,000). That’s why the pharma industry is urgently advancing rare disease therapeutics across different categories.
Dominant Orphan Drug Sales
According to other estimates, orphan drugs are set to capture over one-fifth of global prescription sales by 2024. Blood, central nervous system, and respiratory-related drugs are currently the top therapeutic categories and are expected to keep this status into the future.
The figures below break down global orphan drug sales by therapy category, and their present and estimated future market share. Note that oncology-related orphan drug sales are excluded from this table.
|Therapy Category||2018 Sales||Market Share||2024E Sales||Market Share||Change in Market Share|
|Central nervous system (CNS)||$11.1B||16.3%||$20.3B||17.1%||0.8%|
Source: EvaluatePharma. Industry sales are based on the top 500 pharma and biotech companies.
Much is still unknown about rare diseases in the health community. Frequent misdiagnosis, and up to an average of 8 years for an accurate diagnosis, continue to be a problem for patients.
There are two sides to the situation. On one, tech giants like Microsoft are providing digital health solutions to speed up diagnosis, through machine learning and blockchain-based patient registry.
On the other, many skeptics question whether the industry is interested in finding cures for rare diseases at all, especially when they account for a significant portion of industry revenues.
Is curing patients a sustainable business model?
Visualizing Over A Century of Global Fertility
Global fertility has almost halved in the past century. Which countries are most resilient, and which have experienced the most dramatic changes over time?
Visualizing Over A Century of World Fertility
In just 50 years, world fertility rates have been cut in half.
This sea change can be attributed to multiple factors, ranging from medical advances to greater gender equity. But generally speaking, as more women gain an education and enter the workforce, they’re delaying motherhood and often having fewer children in the process.
Today’s interactive data visualization was put together by Bo McCready, the Director of Analytics at KIPP Texas. Using numbers from Our World in Data, it depicts the changes in the world’s fertility rate—the average number of children per woman—spanning from the beginning of the 20th century to present day.
A Demographic Decline
The global fertility rate fell from 5.25 children per woman in 1900, to 2.44 children per woman in 2018. The steepest drop in this shift happened in a single decade, from 1970 to 1980.
In the interactive graphic, you’ll see graphs for 200 different countries and political entities showing their total fertility rate (FTR) over time. Here’s a quick summary of the countries with the highest and lowest FTRs, as of 2017:
|Top 10 Countries||Fertility rate||Bottom 10 Countries||Fertility Rate|
|🇳🇪 Niger||7.13||🇹🇼 Taiwan||1.22|
|🇸🇴 Somalia||6.08||🇲🇩 Moldova||1.23|
|🇨🇩 Democratic Republic of Congo||5.92||🇵🇹 Portugal||1.24|
|🇲🇱 Mali||5.88||🇸🇬 Singapore||1.26|
|🇹🇩 Chad||5.75||🇵🇱 Poland||1.29|
|🇦🇴 Angola||5.55||🇬🇷 Greece||1.3|
|🇧🇮 Burundi||5.53||🇰🇷 South Korea||1.33|
|🇺🇬 Uganda||5.41||🇭🇰 Hong Kong||1.34|
|🇳🇬 Nigeria||5.39||🇨🇾 Cyprus||1.34|
|🇬🇲 Gambia||5.29||🇲🇴 Macao||1.36|
At a glance, the countries with the highest fertility are all located in Africa, while several Asian countries end up in the lowest fertility list.
The notable decade of decline in average global fertility can be partially traced back to the actions of the demographic giants China and India. In the 1970s, China’s controversial “one child only” policy and India’s state-led sterilization campaigns caused sharp declines in births for both countries. Though they hold over a quarter of the world’s population today, the effects of these government decisions are still being felt.
Population Plateau, or Cliff?
The overall decline in fertility rates isn’t expected to end anytime soon, and it’s even expected to fall past 2.1 children per woman, which is known as the “replacement rate”. Any fertility below this rate signals fewer new babies than parents, leading to an eventual population decline.
Experts predict that world fertility will further drop from 2.5 to 1.9 children per woman by 2100. This means that global population growth will slow down or possibly even go negative.
Africa will continue to be the only region with significant growth—consistent with the generous fertility rates of Nigeria, the DRC, and Angola. In fact, the continent is expected to house 13 of the world’s largest megacities, as its population expands from 1.3 billion to 4.3 billion by 2100.
The Big Pharma Takeover of Medical Cannabis
The Big Pharma industry is entering the cannabis space, by swapping patients for patents. But what are the impacts of such a takeover?
The Big Pharma Takeover of Medical Cannabis
As evidence of cannabis’ many benefits mounts, so does the interest from the global pharmaceutical industry, known as Big Pharma. The entrance of such behemoths will radically transform the cannabis industry—once heavily stigmatized, it is now a potentially game-changing source of growth for countless companies.
Today’s infographic comes to us from CB2 Insights, and explores how and why the notorious Big Pharma are interested in the nascent cannabis industry.
Who are “Big Pharma”?
The term refers to some of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, considered especially influential as a group. To give a sense of their sheer size, the market cap of the top 10 Big Pharma companies is $1.7 trillion—Johnson & Johnson being the largest, with a market capitalization of $374 billion.
So far, Big Pharma has watched the cannabis industry from the sidelines, deterred by regulatory concerns. What we are seeing now is the sleeping giant’s takeover slowly intensifying as more patents, partnerships, and sponsored clinical trials come to fruition.
Could Cannabis be Sold Over the Counter?
The cannabis plant has been used in medicine for 6,000 years. However, there is still considerable debate around the role it plays in healthcare today. There are currently almost 400 active and completed clinical trials worldwide surrounding cannabidiol (CBD), a type of cannabinoid that makes up 40% of the cannabis plant’s extract.
Cannabis relies on CBD’s therapeutic properties, and recent studies suggest it may be useful in combating a variety of health conditions, such as:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Cancer side effects
As of 2019, 33 states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for medical use. Its potential for pain management has led some experts to recommend it as an alternative to addictive painkillers, with one study of 13 states showing opiate-related deaths decreasing by over 33% in the six years since medical cannabis was legalized.
As the industry evolves, data is becoming increasingly important in understanding the potential of cannabis—both as a viable medical treatment, and as a recreational product. The shift away from anecdotal evidence towards big data will inform future policies, and give rise to a new era of consumer education.
Big Pharma’s Foray into Cannabis
Further legalization of cannabis will challenge Big Pharma’s bottom line, and poach more than $4 billion from pharma sales annually. In fact, medical cannabis sales are projected to reach $5.9 billion in 2019, from an estimated 24 million patients.
Seven of Canada’s top 10 cannabis patent holders are major multinational pharmaceutical companies, a trend that is not unique to Canada.
|Company Rank||🇨🇦 Canadian Patents||Company Rank||🇺🇸 U.S. Patents|
|1. Novartis||21||1. Abbvie||59|
|2. Pfizer||14||2. Sanofie||39|
|3. GW Pharmaceuticals||13||3. Merck||35|
|4. Ericsson||13||4. Bristol-Myers Squibb||34|
|5. Merck||11||5. GW Pharmaceuticals||28|
|6. Solvay Pharmaceuticals||7||6. Pfizer||25|
|7. Kao Corporation||7||7. Hebrew University of Jerusalem||19|
|8. Ogeda SA||7||8. Roche||17|
|9. Sanofi||6||9. University of Connecticut||16|
|10. University of Connecticut||6||10. U.S. Health and Human Services||13|
It comes as no surprise that many pharmaceutical giants have already formed strong partnerships with cannabis companies, such as Novartis and Tilray, who will develop and distribute medical cannabis together in legal jurisdictions around the world.
Data is the Missing Link
While the body of knowledge about the many uses of cannabis continue to grow, clinical evidence is key for widespread adoption.
Products backed by data will be a defining criteria for major companies to come into the market en masse. And ultimately, Big Pharma’s entry could accelerate public understanding and confidence in cannabis as a viable option for a range of ailments, and mark the next major milestone for the industry.
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