Japan pharma lobbies say pricing scheme leading to renewed 'drug lag'

·1 min read
Medicines on a shelf of a prescription pharmacy is seen through its window in Tokyo

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's three major pharmaceutical lobbies joined for the first time on Monday in urging reforms to the government's drug-pricing system to avoid losing out on investment and new drugs.

While American and European drugmakers have complained for years about drug prices set by Japan's socialised medical system, this is the first time that the domestic lobby has made a joint statement with them in a united front.

The lobbies said that Japan needs a more transparent and predictable price-setting mechanism to keep the market attractive for research-focused companies.

Since 2015, there have been more than 50 changes to the system that determines how much companies can charge hospitals and patients for drugs, James Feliciano, the country manager for Abbevie Inc, told reporters.

"The policy environment in Japan has become increasingly unpredictable and challenging," said Feliciano, who also heads the American lobby PhRMA in Japan. "The Japanese market is losing its attractiveness."

The policies could result in a return of "drug lag," he said, referring to a period in the early 2000s where new treatments developed overseas could take four years or more to enter the Japanese market.

Representatives from Japan's Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency, the main drug regulator, and the health ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Biopharmaceutical investment has increased 33% globally between 2015 and 2020, while it has fallen 9% in Japan, according to PhRMA data.

(Reporting by Rocky Swift; Editing by Christopher Cushing)