Significant Challenges to Japan Healthcare System and Economy as a Whole Due To The Declining and Rapidly Aging Population

Date: 30-Apr-2013
According to a new report "Japan Pharmaceutical Market Outlook – Deregulation and More Efficient New Drug Approval Process Attract Foreign Investment and Improve the Competitiveness of Japanese Players", Japan had a population of 127,817,277 in 2011, making it the 10th most populated country in the world (The World Bank, 2012). However, since 2005, as the number of deaths exceeded that of births, the population has declined. Without significant government intervention, the depopulation process is expected to continue.


The proportion of people aged 65 or over is 23.3% and projected to reach 29.1% by 2020 and almost 40% by 2050 (Statistical Research and Training Institute, 2012). These demographic changes will present further challenges to a stagnating economy, which, as the data in this report confirms, is already struggling with reduced economic growth. A diminishing workforce and falling productivity levels will likely add to the economic difficulties Japan is experiencing.


The associated increase in disease burden has also had implications for the healthcare system. Healthcare expenditure has risen, and is set to rise further as the population continues to age. In 2010, Japan’s healthcare spending per capita was $4,065.4, a significant increase from 2005.


Japan’s universal healthcare system may therefore prove unsustainable as the government looks to control spending. A combination of pro-generic policies, government initiatives to prevent lifestyle diseases, and higher copayments should help to keep healthcare expenditure under control.


Regulatory Reform will Continue to Attract Foreign Pharmaceutical Companies


The ongoing deregulation of the Japanese pharmaceutical industry has made it an attractive market for big pharma. Improvements to the new drug approval process have significantly shortened the approval time. Consultation services provided by approval bodies have been expanded and improved, approval standards have been clarified and the number of trained personnel involved in the review process has increased.


Many of these changes have occurred following the introduction of a number of plans and government policies. Plans are currently being implemented to shorten the review period and improve cooperation with other countries, particularly Western and other Asian nations, such as the Second Medium Range Plan (2009–2014), which includes the International Strategic Plan.


In April 2007, the government introduced the 5-Year Strategy for the Creation of Innovative Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices, which contributed towards the reduction in lag time associated with new product approvals. In addition to attracting foreign investment, deregulation has also improved the competitiveness of Japan’s pharmaceutical companies. The market now consists of multinational players such as Takeda and Daiichi Sankyo, who market leading products globally.


Takeda Maintains its Position as the Leading Company in the Japanese Pharmaceutical Industry


Takeda maintained its position as the leader in Japan’s pharmaceutical industry in 2012, with revenues of $18.9 billion. This was followed by Otsuka Holdings, Astellas, Daiichi Sankyo and Eisai.


M&A activity has become a common theme within the global pharmaceutical industry. This is often a strategic response to patent expirations, reduced R&D productivity and the need to cut costs.


The Japanese pharmaceutical industry has followed this trend. Although historically dependent on domestic R&D, the recent globalization of Japanese companies has been driven by enhanced M&A activity. Significant deals have been completed in the US, Europe and developing nations, such as China, India and Brazil.


With a total of 20 M&A, including two recently announced, Takeda has been the most active Japanese company. The M&A strategy is seen as necessary for pharmaceutical companies keen to expand product pipelines following patent expirations and gain access to untapped markets. It is hoped that such strategic measures will help develop or maintain growth and revenue.

Complete report available @