Japanese pharma set for transformation in 2018

February 2, 2018  Source: PharmaPhorum 167

Japan was once the second biggest pharma market in the world behind the US, but has now been overtaken by China. Nevertheless, it remains one of the most important markets for new drug launches.

The CPhI report from UBM says demographic pressures on healthcare costs are driving a political drive for lower costs solutions.

Generics are an obvious route, but Japan’s highly developed pharma industry could also begin to make biosimilars too.

Takeda, the country’s largest pharma, has been in an acquisitive mood recently, and its French CEO Christophe Weber is spearheading a more global outlook from Japan’s pharma sector.

Takeda has bought its stem cell therapy partner TiGenix for $626m, with the suggestion that further acquisitions could follow.

Biosimilars growth

In the report, from pharma events firm CPhI released ahead of its Japanese conference in April, 59% of 41 Japanese pharma companies in an online survey predicted biosimilars will be the fastest growing sector.

As the Japanese pharma economy is in a state of transition towards greater openness, potential rewards for early international movers were cited as another key factor in the rapid shifts predicted in 2018.

But the report also highlights a number of drag factors. For example, in terms of how international companies approach the market – a local partner was viewed as a prerequisite of success – with brand loyalty also identified as a perennial issue.

Respondents from Japanese pharma also believe that the Japanese regulator has made effective strides in tackling the drug approval backlog, while international respondents largely disagree.

In a further boost to pharma in Japan, the CPhI Global Pharma Index – an inaugural study of the perceptions of 500 pharmaceutical companies – predicted an extremely prosperous year for the pharmaceutical industry in 2018.

Japan has seen sluggish growth in recent years, but international respondents now predict higher growth potential than most European countries in the league – ranking closely behind Germany and the USA.

In the area of ‘overall competitiveness’, Japan also scored positively. International respondents rated Japan almost as highly as India and China (third and fourth), both emerging markets that are widely known for mass production of generics, in contrast to Japan’s mature market focussed on quality and innovation. The USA and Germany were first and second.

The report also notes that while partnerships with domestic firms are the optimal strategy for new entrants to overcome obstacles like brand loyalty and lack of local knowledge, there is potential for direct entry and even acquisitions in the medium-term.

By Ddu
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