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5 things to know about the healthcare industry in Japan

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Any pharmaceutical, healthcare or medical device company entering the Japanese market will soon discover that the industry is full of its own unique opportunities and challenges.

We’ve leveraged our combined 60 years of experience recruiting in healthcare in Japan and Asia Pacific to unpack 5 things you need to know about the industry:

1. Japan has the third largest pharmaceutical and second largest medtech market in the world

Sitting just behind the United States and China, Japan is home to one of the largest and most advanced pharmaceutical markets in the world. It boosts approximately 7% of the world’s pharma drug market and is seeing growth from a range of factors such as an aging population, growing research and development investments, and universal healthcare.

According to JETRO, biopharmaceuticals are expected to drive the domestic market in the future with a number of biosimilars expected to hit the market. This coincides with a rising number of international companies launching biosimilars into the Japanese market, as well as setting up clinical development and marketing systems for drugs in Japan.

2. Universal healthcare creates a stable industry sector

The Japanese healthcare system is widely regarded as the gold-standard, with provision of comprehensive medical care to Japanese citizens and residents. The system is funded by a combination of government subsidies and mandatory health insurance payments.

With an aging population and medical technology advancements, the country is forecasted to increase its healthcare spend. This growing need and stable industry landscape makes Japan an attractive market for international companies looking to expand.

3. Real World Evidence (RWE) is gaining momentum in Japan

Pharmaceutical and healthcare companies operating in Japan are seeking to understand how their drugs are performing in real world settings through Real World Evidence (RWE). The data and insights collected from RWE can include sources such as electronic medical records, patient surveys, clinical trial insights and observational studies.

It is expected that the global RWE solutions market will reach $65.1 billion by 2028. Major companies in Japan are investing in technology and forming partnerships to address the growing market for RWE solutions. Read more here.

4. A challenging hiring landscape

Japan has one of the world’s most fiercely competitive labor markets. This major supply and demand problem can be attributed to a range of factors: a ‘job-for-life’ culture, low unemployment, limited English proficiency, and a preference for Japanese legacy companies.

Healthcare companies trying to recruit in Japan need to adjust to the candidate-driven market challenges. Simply uploading a job posting isn’t going to cut it, with a very limited number of candidates actively looking for work or open to changing jobs.

5. Strong regulation and pricing systems

In Japan, the Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency (PMDA) is the regulatory body overseeing drug approvals and post-market surveillance. It has a reputation for a robust and rigorous approval process. In recent years there is growing pressure to accelerate the approval process and attract new companies to the Japanese market to meet the needs of Japan’s aging population. Japanese leaders have recognised a need to promote medical innovation to lower rising health care costs.

Stringent drug price controls are also part of the Japanese government’s attempts to keep healthcare costs lower. There are biennial reviews on drug prices and any new pharmaceutical product launching in Japan is subject to price review.

For more market insights and access to our exceptional talent pool, book a discovery session with Morunda. We help outsiders become insiders.

2Life Science Report, JETRO, March 2021

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