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Japan – the new opportunity Indian pharma needs?

Could Japan be a new, opportune market for Indian pharma?

Recent comments by Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman seem to suggest as much.

At a seminar in New Delhi, organised by the Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS) think tank, Sitharaman encouraged Indian companies to increase exports to Japan under the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) between the two countries.

Noting that the India-Japan trade deficit had increased from $3.1 billion in 2011 when the agreement was linked to $5.2 billion afterwards, Sitharaman singled out the pharmaceutical industry in India, calling its present share in the US$110 billion Japanese pharma market “below par” – it being limited to active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) –  whilst the market itself offers “a huge untapped potential for Indian pharma industry.”

Sitharaman stated that India’s “strength in pharma sector was well-established” and that the country’s role as a pre-eminent exporter of generic drugs – predominantly to less economically developed countries (LEDCs) – was compatible with the objectives of the Japanese government to lower the costs of healthcare in order to better accommodate the demands of the country’s ageing population.

As prognosticators of sorts,India-based pharmaceutical companies such as Lupin have enjoyed considerable success in Japan  

Lupin is one of the fastest growing generic drug companies in Japan, with its subsidiary Kyowa ranking ninth – and is now expected to rank sixth following a US$150 million acquisition earlier this year of twenty-one generic drug brands from the Osaka-based pharma company Shionogi & Co.  

The Japanese government announced last year its intentions to raise the share of generic drug prescriptions to 80% by 2020.

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