NEW YORK (AP) — Alexion Pharmaceuticals said Tuesday that regulators have deemed its drug Soliris an orphan treatment for a third illness. The FDA awards orphan drug status to medications that treat diseases that affect fewer than 200,000 people in the U.S. and represent a significant advance in treatment. The decision means competing drugs could be blocked from the market for up to seven years, which could be lucrative for the drugmaker. Alexion wants to market Soliris for the prevention of delayed graft function, a complication for kidney-transplant patients. Their new kidneys don't work and they still need dialysis. Soliris was approved in 2007 as a treatment for a life-threatening condition called paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria that causes a breakdown of red blood cells and leads to anemia. In 2011 the Food and Drug Administration approved it as a treatment for atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome, which often leads to kidney failure and death. Soliris is an orphan treatment for both of those conditions. Soliris sales grew 36 percent to $1.11 billion over the first nine months of 2013. The company is scheduled to report its fourth-quarter results on Jan. 30 . Shares of Alexion Pharmaceuticals Inc. rose 75 cents to $140.46 in midday trading. Earlier Tuesday the stock set an all-time high of $142 .
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