Japan's low adoption of generic medications could be remedied by new plans under consideration at the country's Ministry of Health.
The government plans to allow doctors to specify on a prescription that patients receive a generic drug, in an effort to push the dispensing of generics by pharmacists. Currently, Japanese pharmacists cannot dispense drugs not specially requested in the doctor's prescription.
Under the proposed change, a sentence added to the prescription would advise that generics with the same ingredients and efficacy as the brand-name drug can be substituted, according to a report in the Nihon Keizai newspaper.
Japanese doctors tend to keep prescribing brand-name drugs even after the patent expires so that, even when generics are available, sales of proprietary brands tend to decline only slightly. In contrast, it is not uncommon for a blockbuster drug in Europe or the US to lose two-thirds of its revenues to generic competitors within a year of patent expiry.
The move is part of a wider government scheme to alter how drug charges are reimbursed under the National Health Insurance system and boost the uptake of generic drugs.
At present, generics account for about 16 per cent of Japan's drug market by volume and 5 per cent in terms of value, much lower than the 50 per cent share seen in countries such as the US and some European countries. If prescribing of generic could be lifted to these levels, 1,000 billion yen (€7.6bn) could be carved from the current 6,000 billion yen budget.
- Meanwhile doctors in Belgium have been told by Health Minister Rudy Demotte that, unless generics account for one-fifth of their prescriptions, they could incur financial penalties.