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HOME  > Past issues  > 2012 January 6 - 10  > High prescription drug prices in Japan
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2012 January 6 - 10 [WELFARE]

High prescription drug prices in Japan

January 10, 2012
The prices of prescription medication in Japan are about twice as much as in Britain and France and about 1.3 times the prices in Germany.

A survey conducted by the Japanese Medical and Dental Practitioners for Improvement of Medical Care (HODANREN) and the Japan Institute of Pharmacovigilance reveals that Japan’s drug prices are high for patented new drugs, and that the country’s top-selling prescription drugs are much higher than similar drugs sold in other countries.

The cost of drugs accounted for 33% of total government expenditure for the national healthcare system in FY2010, which amounted to 9.8 trillion yen.

On the other hand, pharmaceutical companies made profits three times the average profit rate for all businesses. For example, Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited in FY2010 obtained about 2.27 trillion yen in retained earnings.

As for drug cost per capita in Japan, it was 4.1 times of that in Britain, showing that the quantity in medication usage in Japan is prone to be more in addition to higher drug prices.

Koyabu Mikio, speaking on behalf of a drug price watchdog group said, “Japanese citizens cannot feel secure in the ability to continue with their medication because of high drug prices and the ever increasing burden of medical bills.”

He added, “The government is considering again raising the burden of medical costs that patients pay when receiving medical services. It is urgently necessary to drastically reduce high cost of prescription medication to a level that ordinary patients can afford.”

In order to effectively utilize the national healthcare insurance budget, the HODANREN has been proposing that the government control drug prices centering on new drugs; pharmaceutical companies stop raking in excessive profits; the government review the existing drug price system that is causing high medical expenditures for the government and high prescription charges for patients; the government use the financial resources created as a result of the proposed review for reducing patients’ burden of paying medical bills and prescription drug charges and for increasing remuneration for medical and technical services; and more budget be allocated for research and development of drugs for at present incurable diseases.
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