Italian drugmaker Recordati is paying out 135 million euros to acquire Orphan Europe, a firm which specialises in rare diseases and is headquartered in Paris, France.

Orphan, which specialises in the neonatal, paediatric and metabolic disorders fields, employs about 120 staff and has subsidiaries in nine European countries and in the United Arab Emirates. It currently markets ten products, including Cystagon (cysteamine) for the treatment of nephropathic cystinosis and Wilzin (zinc acetate) for Wilson's disease, a rare genetic disorder in which copper builds up in the liver. Total sales last year reached 40 million euros, and Orphan posted earnings before interest and taxes of 7.6 million euros.

The Milan-headquartered firm’s chief executive, Giovanni Recordati, said the acquisition fits well with his firm’s “growth strategy based on expansion and the strengthening of its product portfolio and pipeline”. In the last year or so, it has licensed in Infasurf (calf-derived surfactant) for the prevention and treatment of neonatal respiratory distress syndrome and Stanate (stannsoporfin) for neonatal hyperbilirubinemia “and the development of these products will surely benefit from the expertise which Orphan is able to provide”, he added.

Mr Recordati went on to say that the market for orphan drugs “will grow significantly as a result of the identification of a constantly increasing number of rare diseases and the growing awareness which leads to more patients being diagnosed and treated”. The orphan drug market is a niche with significant growth potential, he believes, and only a few of the total 6,000-8,000 rare diseases are currently treated pharmacologically.

The number of existing drugs for such diseases is still limited, he noted, hence the decision “to address specialist therapeutic areas focusing on unmet medical needs” and “our increasing geographic coverage together with the additional expertise in handling highly specialised products should also stimulate our ongoing in-licensing activity”.