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Why speciality and rare-disease drugs are the next big thing in Medical Sales

In an industry as vast and complex as pharmaceuticals, it can be easy to lose track of all the products making it onto the market. However, a trend that is quickly emerging worldwide is the rise of drugs aimed at helping those with rare diseases. With the latest figures predicting the orphan drug market will hit a value of $217 billion by 2024, many companies are quickly waking up to the potential that these drugs can have in the marketplace, opening up new career opportunities for many.


Read on to learn about the top 10 rare diseases and how you might be able to build a career where you can make a difference.

Rare diseases may not be as rare as you think 


Despite there being around 7,000 known rare diseases, only 5% have an approved drug developed to treat them. However, the number of patents being registered by companies for new drugs is growing rapidly; in 2022, the European Commission approved 21 medicines for rare diseases - more than ever before.

Why has it suddenly become so popular? Though Orphan Drug regulation has been around for years - in the U.S., the Orphan Drug Act was published in 1983, with the European Union following suit in 1999 - the market was previously deemed too unprofitable to function due to a small consumer base and the high costs of developing products. To stimulate investment, these acts offered pharmaceutical companies unprecedented benefits, amongst them ten years of market exclusivity for a new patented rare disease drug- effectively allowing them to set their own price for any drugs they release onto the market- scientific advice and access to EU-funded research.

In the years that have followed, leaps in medical technology have made it possible to create and market more rare-disease drugs than ever before. With leaps forward in CRISPR gene-editing and the use of big data for drug discovery, companies are finding it easier than ever before to get involved with the rare disease market. Though biotech companies led the trend at first, big pharma is getting involved too and industry investment is soaring. As a result, this vastly expanding market is creating a huge number of new jobs, meaning that enthusiastic and passionate people can get involved whether their interests lie in R&D, making the next breakthrough, or in sales.


Top 10 rare diseases

The definition of a rare disease varies by country. Some determine it must affect fewer than 1 in 2,000 people, while others use a threshold of fewer than 1 in 10,000 people. For healthcare and drug development companies, they present numerous challenges, including limited understanding, difficulty diagnosing, limited treatment options and high therapy costs.

Awareness and research are critical to improving outcomes for those affected by these conditions. Collaboration between healthcare providers, drug development companies, patients, and patient advocacy groups is critical to improving outcomes for those affected by rare diseases.

So, what are the top 10 rare diseases in the world? Here’s a summary based on prevalence:

  1. Pompe disease
  2. Huntington's disease
  3. Primary sclerosing cholangitis
  4. Gaucher disease
  5. Cystic fibrosis
  6. Batten disease
  7. Acromegaly
  8. Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressive
  9. Spinal muscular atrophy
  10. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) 

Get involved


A career in rare disease drugs can not only be exciting, but rewarding. The World Economic Forum estimates that as many as 475 million people across the world suffer from a rare disease, and being a part of the process that brings relief to these people can be a massive source of job satisfaction. This is especially true as those working within rare diseases have a much higher rate of patient interaction when creating, testing and marketing their new drug. Indeed, employees often meet with support communities in order to raise awareness for these diseases and raise funding for further research; a good example of one of these fundraisers is the Ice Bucket Challenge which went viral across the world some years ago and raised enormous amounts of money.

Whilst the industry is also extremely lucrative, it’s also an excellent job opportunity for many people wanting to try something new: from charity work to talented young specialists, there’s something for everybody, including those in Medical Sales, with representatives commanding unlimited market access to the drug they are selling. 

With the rare disease market expanding rapidly, now’s the perfect time to get involved. Explore medical sales rep careers, take a look at our latest market access roles or explore all our vacancies across specialisms.
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