The race is on among foreign pharmaceutical manufacturers to meet the needs of Japan’s increasingly aging female population. Demand for treatments for osteoporosis, breast cancer, and other post-menopausal ailments is expected to grow in line with the rising number of women suffering from such diseases.
Increasing demand has prompted manufacturers to step up their efforts in conducting gender-specific research and developing female-only drugs. The Japanese arms of Eli Lilly and Pfizer, both of the U.S., and Schering, of Germany, are all actively working on gaining approval for new women’s medication. The market for female-only products is recognized as largely untapped and a source of potential growth. Schering, for example, currently derives 10% of its overall Japanese sales from female products, but has a stated goal of raising that figure to 30%.
Interest in gender-specific medication from drug makers mirrors an escalating interest in women’s medical issues among healthcare professionals. Research has shown that women are prone to different diseases and react to medication differently than men. Europe and North America discovered this in the 1980s, but Japan was slow to recognize the phenomenon. However, the establishment of several women’s clinics and hospital departments in recent years has provoked awareness for female health concerns as well as the potential market for female-only drugs.