Japan looks for ways to maintain prices on older drugs

Japan Health Minister Yasuhisa Shiozaki

Japanese health officials say they are looking at new ways to help drug companies maintain prices on older, established medicines that are still effective but at risk of being supplanted by newer, more expensive compounds, according to a Japan News report.

The report said the Ministry for Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW), as part of its review of medical fees scheduled for 2016, is working to persuade doctors to prescribe the older medicines because they currently are less expensive than new drugs and those prices are lowered every two years when the ministry reviews fees.

Production costs don't always keep pace, the report said, which is leading the ministry to consider a system in which prices will be maintained or raised to maintain production so that the older drugs are not dumped in favor of newer, more expensive drugs which may have about the same effectiveness.

The health ministry, the Japan News said, will also consider ways to encourage or force doctors to prescribe long-standing or generic drugs first and then, if those prove ineffective, allow a switch to new medicines.

The country is under pressure to rein in healthcare costs, which could increase by more than $33 billion over the next 5 years.

- here's the story from Japan News

EJ Lane contributed to this report.