Rare Disease Information for Healthcare Professionals

RD Information Databases

The following links are recommended for clinicians or healthcare providers seeking reliable information on rare diseases. All are accessible free of charge.

Orphanet is a European reference portal for information on rare diseases and orphan drugs. This includes information on rare diseases expertise in Ireland.

Registering on Orphanet:

  • Identify a Consultant clinical lead in a permanent role with your service
    Register the service on Orphanet as a Centre of Expertise (www.orpha.net)
    The Orphanet Quality Criteria Form describes the information required to register the service.
    You can also read the guide for registering on Orphanet. If you cannot complete all sections at a minimum please complete the mandatory criteria. 
    Click here to see an example of a completed Orphanet Quality Criteria Form
    To learn more about Orphanet read our Orphanet Overview for Clinicians
  • Services registered on Orphanet are validated by Ophanet

More Information about Orphanet: The European Rare Diseases Portal

All Irish rare disease healthcare providers are recommended to maintain an up to date registration of their clinical centre of expertise on Orphanet including the completion of the Orphanet Quality questionnaire describing their multidisciplinary expertise in rare disease management. Assistance with registration is available through Orphanet Ireland 01 809 7448 or orphanet.ireland@mater.ie

The US National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD), provides patient friendly information and an index of physician guides for a number of rare diseases. It is important to note that treatment information will be American focused.

Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man (OMIM) is a catalogue of human genes and genetic disorders and is targeted at health care professionals and researchers.

PubMed is a searchable database of medical literature and lists journal articles that discuss rare diseases.

Genetic and Rare Disease Information Centre provides rare disease information for the US and is relevant for disease summary and management of rare disorders.

Gene reviews are expert authored peer reviewed disease descriptions focused on clinically relevant information on diagnosis, management and genetic counselling of patients and families with rare disease.

GeneTests is a medical genetics information resource developed for physicians, genetic counsellors, other healthcare providers and researchers. It has an international laboratory directory and clinic directory for inherited disorders.

European Reference Networks

European Reference Networks (ERNs) are virtual networks that enable clinicians and researchers to share knowledge, experience, medical research, teaching, training and other resources to help diagnose and provide highly specialised healthcare for complex, rare or low prevalence diseases. These networks use various communication avenues and eHealth tools to enable the mobility of expertise across borders, removing the need for patients to travel to access care and expertise that does not exist in their country. This joint initiative of the EC and European Member States, with support from the European Parliament, aims to address common challenges faced by professionals when diagnosing and providing highly specialised healthcare.  The European Commission website (Europa) now hosts a searchable interface with details about (ERNs)

There are 24 ERN networks based on disease systems.  Besides providing virtual consultations, each ERN is developing disease guidelines, research projects and registries information on their websites here

It is possible to search for members of ERNs by country here. You can search for information by selecting one or more ERNs, countries, or clinical units. Alternatively, you can select one or more ERN, and then restrict the search to one or more countries or clinical units. The results are displayed as pins on a map with a list below it. Additional details for each result can be viewed when you click on the items in the list. For any content-related observations or suggestions please email SANTE-ERN@ec.europa.eu; Any technical issues encountered can be sent to the IT helpdesk: SANTE-ERNSD-ITSUPPORT@ec.europa.eu

Newly published Europa Web Page on “the European Reference Networks and Covid19”.

On the European Reference Networks and Covid-19 website you will find the description of the COVID-19 Clinical Management Support System (CMSS), with reference to the Statement issued by the ERN Board of Member States. The eNews (available in almost all EU languages plus Norwegian, under “Useful information” can also be circulated to other stakeholders or institutions in case you want to raise awareness on the existence of the service. We are also giving an insight of what each ERN is proposing. 

Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are research studies that explore whether a medical strategy, treatment, or device is safe and effective for humans. You can find specific information on ongoing clinical trials for rare diseases within Europe.

A European Clinical trials register provides information on ongoing rare disease trials.

Rare Disease Strategy and Policy

Across Europe there has been much work done in highlighting needs of rare disease patients in relation to access to reliable disease information, diagnosis and care, treatment and research. Through this many EU countries including Ireland have drafted a plan to highlighted the needs of rare disease patients and propose recommendations to better meet their needs and a plan to implement recommendations over the coming years. The first National Rare Disease Plan for Ireland, covering the years 2014-2018 sets out the background in Ireland for rare disease.

The National Clinical Programme for Rare Diseases was established in December 2013 in Ireland with Professor Eileen Treacy as the Clinical Lead. One of the programme’s first recommendations was the set up of The National Rare Disease Office.

There are national plans and strategies from European Commission (EC) relating to rare diseases that will help you understand EC policy in this area. Read more information on policy in rare disease in Europe.

If you are a health professional interested in developing a European Reference Network the following link will give you information on policies for ERN establishment or joining a network.

Education for Healthcare Professionals

National Rare Diseases Office - e-Learning Modules

Welcome to the National Rare Diseases Office (NRDO) and the National Clinical Programme for Rare Diseases mini-module on Rare diseases. These modules will address an approach to the recognition and management of rare diseases. The aim of this series is to give an overview of the current Irish and European Rare Diseases policy and on how to access the appropriate information for patients and families affected with rare Diseases. The series is divided into 6 sessions – Rare Disease Basics, Rare Disease Policy, Inheritance Patterns, Congenital Anomalies, European reference networks, and finally Orphanet.

Rare Diseases - Recognition and Management

Rare Diseases - EU and Irish Policy

Rare Diseases - Inheritance Patterns

Rare Diseases - Congenital Anomalies

Rare Diseases - European Reference Centres; Expert Centres

Rare Diseases - Orphanet

GP The voice for today's GP. News, insights and clinical education

Understanding Genetics

Understanding Genetics’ 28 video series, Prof Sally Ann Lynch has produced two additional short animations Understanding Copy Number Variations

and Variant of Unknown Significance (VUS) 

GenEquip Project - Genetics Education for Health Professionals

The Gen-Equip project https://www.primarycaregenetics.org is a project combining education, primary care and genetics. The aim is to enable health professionals who are working in primary care to update their knowledge and skills in genetics with education including case-based modules, free of charge to health professionals who want continuing medical or professional education in genetics available at www.primarycaregenetics.org

Medics4RareDiseases is a not-for profit (NFP) organisation based in the UK that is driving an attitude change to rare diseases amongst medical students and doctors in training. We're doing this to improve the journey through healthcare for those living with rare diseases and their families. We also believe that we can shorten the length of time to diagnosis by making doctors aware of the prevalence of rare diseases as a whole: they are individually rare but collectively common. Therefore doctors should be coming across rare diseases regularly in their career. We do this by working with patients, patient groups and healthcare professionals. We host a big event each year with The Genetics Section fo The Royal Society of Medicine and we help other groups create their own events. We use social media and our website to promote rare disease education and to raise awareness of different rare diseases. We also collaborate with Findacure on The Student Voice Essay Competition each year

Medics4RareDiseases are proud to present our new video promoting rare disease education – just in time for Rare Disease Day on February 28th 2019

Genomics Education UK

Rare Disease: The GP's role

Rare Disease: A family's journey

Rare Disease: The power of a genetic diagnosis


Model of Care for Rare Diseases This document was developed by the National Clinical Programme for Rare Diseases

The Model of Care for Transition

The Model of Care for Transition from Paediatric to Adult Healthcare Providers in Rare Diseases has been developed to assist healthcare professionals who provide care for young adults with rare diseases. It outlines guiding principles to support the successful transition from paediatric to adult healthcare providers.

The area of rare diseases involves highly specialised care. A rare disease is defined as a disease or disorder affecting fewer than 5 in 10,000 people. There are an estimated 6,000-8,000 known rare diseases affecting up to 8% of the total EU population. This represents up to 300,000 people in Ireland.

The national clinical programme for rare diseases would like to sincerely thank the healthcare providers, clinical programme teams, patient support groups and individuals who contributed to the development of the model of care. We hope the documents attached are useful for service planning and for clinical teams as they support young people in their transition journey

summary-moc-for-transition-rare-diseases.pdf (size 513 KB)

Patient summary for transfer to an adult healthcare provider

Guide for planning the transition of young people with a rare diseases from paediatric to adult healthcare services

IJMS Publication The National Rare Diseases Office published a paper in the Irish Journal of Medical Sciences (2019) ‘Primary Care management of Rare Diseases in Ireland’, a retrospective (2013-2017) cross–sectional survey of primary care consultations for patients with 22 commonly recognised rare diseases and open access link

EUROPLAN National Conference Ireland – Final report 2011

Rare Disorders without Borders – Rare Disease Day 2013

EUROPLAN 2nd National Conference Ireland – Final Report 2015

National Rare Disease Plan for Ireland 2014-2018

HSE Clinical Strategy and Programmes Division National Clinical Programme for Rare Diseases Workshop on Clinical Research in Rare Diseases-23 February 2018- Workshop Report