Good Distributors: the Key to Successfully Selling Medical Devices in Japan and China

Japan and China are the largest device markets in Asia, and Western products make up a large portion of the high-risk, high-end device market in both countries. However, selling medical devices in these markets can be difficult. One way to successfully navigate the Chinese and Japanese medical markets is to partner with one or more well connected, reputable and reliable device distributors.

Finding the right distributor for your medical device can be challenging. For instance, there are almost 14,000 medical device distributors in China. Many of these Chinese distributors operate only in one or two key provinces, so a very good distributor in one region may have no market presence in a neighboring province. For national coverage, Western device companies often choose to partner with several Chinese device distributors.

Distributors in Japan usually prefer to build a strong relationship with your company and learn all about your product over the course of many meetings. Therefore, it can take some time to find a good Japanese distributor for your medical device. Instead of working with independent Japanese distributors, smaller Western device companies sometimes choose to piggyback off of a large Western medical device company’s Japan office for sales and marketing.

When selecting a distributor, make sure to do your due diligence. Look for a distributor with significant market presence, sales expertise in your product area and connections with key purchasers and opinion leaders. The right distributor can help you expedite your regulatory approval and may provide valuable post-market services.

For Western firms, medical devices that have already received approval in Europe, the U.S. or other key markets (i.e. Australia or Canada) can often more easily obtain approval from the Chinese and Japanese regulatory authorities. Without this prior approval, medical device registration in Japan and China can be much more difficult.

To learn more, read PBM’s recent article on medical device distributors in Japan and China.