Japan celebrated its 50th anniversary of universal health care on 1 April 2011. During this relatively short period of time, Japan has quickly become a world leader in healthcare by several measures, and has enjoyed particular success in increasing Japanese life expectancy. Central to Japan’s approach has been the objective of ensuring universal health care, which has been achieved in practice by universal access. Equality is emphasised in Japanese society in general, which has played a key role in Japan’s good performance regarding social determinants of health.
Japan’s pharmaceutical sector is in a period of evolution. Falling drug prices, expiring patents and Japan’s ageing population have forced Japanese industry leaders to look for new and innovative approaches to expand their global reach.
In addition, several major Japanese pharmaceutical companies have undergone mergers and other forms of restructuring, which have provided a new point of entry into the Japanese market for foreign SMEs through the establishment of joint ventures with Japanese companies or the granting of distribution rights for their products.