Orphan drugs are intended to treat diseases that affect fewer than 200,000 Americans. With little chance of making money, a drug company is not likely to undertake the necessary research and expense of finding drugs that might treat these diseases. Also, if the drug is a naturally occurring substance, it cannot be patented in the United States, and companies are reluctant to invest money in such a medication when it cannot be protected against exploitation by competing drug companies. Encouragingly, the Orphan Drug Act of 1983 offers a number of incentives to drug companies to encourage development of these drugs. The act has provided hope for millions of people with rare and otherwise untreatable conditions.