Japan Plans Release of New “Vision” for Pharma Industry to Outline Pharmaceutical Development Goals

A decades-long push by Japan to spur innovation in its pharmaceutical industry is expected to get new life this year, with government health agencies planning to release by this summer a new set of goals for speeding clinical trials and encouraging the development of cutting-edge lifesaving drugs.

The Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare (MHLW) released its first such set of strategies for the pharmaceutical industry in 2002. Updated twice before, in 2007 and 2013, the strategy document, dubbed the “Vision” by the ministry, helps guide public-private partnerships in promoting the development of new drugs, and has been instrumental in the creation of systems for delivering much-needed drug treatments to consumers.

In telegraphing its intention to rework the set of strategies, Ministry officials cited the need to ensure that pharmaceutical innovations keep pace with drug prices that are set to rise this year. Under Japanese law, drug company reimbursement rates are decided by the government, and payments are subsidized by the country’s public insurance system. The prices are normally reviewed every two years, but the decision to do so this year signals that they may be revisited on an annual basis going forward.

The new set of strategic goals is envisioned as a way to give the public a more comprehensive vision of how pharmaceuticals are developed, how drugs are classified by the government, and how pharmaceutical companies are taxed.