The Japanese government is actively pursuing generic promotion, along with changes in the OTC market, in order to cope with its ageing population.
With 26% of the Japanese population projected to be aged over 65 in 2015, the government has a number of obstacles to overcome in order to keep health expenditure to a minimum, and the pharmaceutical market will play a part in this. Although the generic market is currently small and fragmented, it has opened up recently to foreign companies such as Teva, indeed this company could well be the national leader in the near future. Recent JV’s in the generic market, such as Teva-Kowa, have highlighted that the key to success is for foreign companies to have a local partner. Despite all this, the MHLW’s target for generics to make up 30% of the market by 2012 appears unattainable at present.
Another cost-containment measure is biennially price cuts for pharmaceutical products, although these can sometimes take place annually. Annual price cuts will likely increase in the future. In view of this, a number of Japanese companies are seeking to acquire rights to foreign companies R&D lines, in order to guarantee sales outside of the Japanese market. An example of this is Takeda’s recent acquisition of Amylin’s anti-obesity pipeline, in a deal which could eventually reach US$1 billion.
Further reading - An in-depth review of the Japanese pharmaceutical market is available from Espicom: The Pharmaceutical Market: Japan (published January 2010)