Japan's cabinet tells health minister to dig deeper on costs

Japan Health Minister Yasuhisa Shiozaki

Not good enough, go back and do better, a fellow member of Japan's cabinet told Health Minister Yasuhisa Shiozaki, in charge of reducing drug costs. The scene was a meeting of the Council on Economic Fiscal Policy, which has been at work recommending cost cuts.

Shiozaki had just presented a report that included setting a goal of an 80% prescription rate for generics by fiscal year 2020. That, he said, would save about $10.5 billion, but earlier, the council had recommended as much as 90%. The current goal, which has not been reached, is 60%.

Unfortunately for Shiozaki, he did not add much else to his cut list, only another $3.5 billion mainly by providing more preventative care to reduce the chances of pneumonia and similar conditions. And oh yes, Shiozaki was considering financial rewards for pharmacies that reduce wasteful prescriptions.

The nongovernment members of the council had wanted much more, including an increase in copays for members of the national health plan. Economic and Fiscal Policy Minister of State Akira Amari told Shiozaki, "work up a sweat," according to Nikkei.

Another minister advised the health minister to go beyond the 80% generics target within two years and make patients pay a higher copay if they buy brand drugs instead of generics. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed the generics bar should be set higher, the Japan Times reported.

A program to rework Japan's overall fiscal policy was due by the end of the month.

- here's the story from Nikkei