International Policy Forum Webinar with Gaku Hashimoto: Future of Japan’s drug development capabilities

GR Japan welcomed House of Representatives member and former State Minister for Health, Labour and Welfare Gaku Hashimoto to the International Policy Forum webinar on 4 August.  Mr. Hashimoto, who currently serves as the chair of the LDP’s Project Team on Strengthening Drug Development Capabilities, shared valuable insights into the future of drug development capabilities and the pharmaceutical industry in Japan.  The webinar was hosted by GR Japan’s CEO & President Jakob Edberg and Analyst Erika Negishi Bulach.

Two Factors Driving the LDP Project Team’s Recommendations

The Project Team on Strengthening Drug Development Capabilities submitted recommendations to the Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare, Norihisa Tamura, on 20 May 2021.

The recommendations were driven by the 2020 drug price revision and COVID-19.

LDP politicians including Hashimoto expressed concern after the decision on the 2020 revision, because lower drug prices discourage companies from investing in drug development and deter foreign pharmaceutical companies from investing in Japan, weakening Japan’s drug discovery market in the long-term.

On COVID-19, Hashimoto said that he received many inquiries from his constituents about the delay in vaccine approval, roll out, and development of domestic treatment and vaccines.  He said this reconfirmed the importance of growing Japanese industry. 

Key Points of LDP’s Vision of the Pharmaceutical Industry

The recommendations aim to strengthen Japan’s drug development capabilities in the pharmaceutical industry.  The recommendations focus on the establishment of a “pharmaceutical industry ecosystem” and “drug security”.

Some of its key proposals are clarifying Japan’s national pharmaceutical strategy; doubling the budget on medical research and development over the next five years; securing a stable drug supply system; and—most importantly—balancing universal health coverage and drug development for the drug pricing system.

Dialogue with Mr. Hashimoto

Hashimoto said that the recommendations were drafted and decided by the LDP, so a change in LDP leadership or the retirement of key health-affiliated LDP politicians should not influence the implementation.

On drug pricing, it is understood that downwards price revisions correspond with the MOF’s quest to ease financial pressures.  However, Hashimoto noted that key MOF officials in healthcare discussions, admitted that sustaining the pharmaceutical industry would be difficult with continued decrease of drug prices.

Hashimoto noted that there are discussions on reevaluating insurance listing and considering to how to narrow the scope of medicines (such as common cold and flu medicine) covered by insurance in order to balance costs from the aging population.

Hashimoto hopes that project team’s recommendations serve as a guideline to advance future discussions between the government, political parties, ministries, pharmaceutical companies and other stakeholders in Japan’s strategy for the pharmaceutical industry.

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