Older patient numbers, sluggish economy, has Japan eyeing drug price caps

Japan Health Minister Yasuhisa Shiozaki

Blaming the aging population, Japan is considering another round of price caps on pharmaceuticals as it tackles a sluggish economy that fails to provide the revenues needed to fund the budget.

The nation's aging population threatens to become a drain on the national coffers, leading to calls to trim spending on the elderly, with a focus on social security and medical services. In the medical sector, cuts would be made in physician fees and the prices of pharmaceuticals.

An advisory panel of the Finance Ministry did not offer specific figures, the Japan Times said, except to say a 1% cut in medical fees would trim $3.5 billion from budget outlays. The budget already calls for limiting the increase in costs attributed to the aging to $4.1 billion.

How drug prices would be reduced was not reported, but Japan's longtime effort in controlling costs has been pushing prescriptions for generic drugs rather than brands, reports said.

In Japan, the increase in the aging population is not being offset by an increasing younger population, meaning fewer tax revenues to offset rising expenditures.

The nation has experienced a low birth rate in recent decades, threatening the world's third-largest economy that is already technically in a recession.

- here's the story from the Japan Times
- and one from the Global Post