The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW) has announced plans to encourage insurance companies to further promote generic drugs. Recent surveys in Japan have found a low rate of generic drug prescriptions for high cost medicines. Japanese doctors are increasingly selective about which generics they are prescribing, due in large part to concerns over drug quality and the extent to which a generic’s ingredients are identical to the original drug product.
Japan’s MHLW also plans to increase the number of drugs available over the counter (OTC). Currently, only 10% of medications in Japan can be bought without a prescription. In comparison, OTC drugs account for 20% of the U.S. market.
Re-classification of drugs as OTC will allow the Japanese governments to save money on insurance premiums, hospital care fees and other healthcare costs.