TOKYO — Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has instructed his cabinet ministers to review the pricing system for drugs and draw up a basic policy by the end of the year in a bid to curb ballooning medical costs.
“I’d like to have the Council (on Economic and Fiscal Policy) compile a basic policy before the year’s end to fundamentally reform the drug pricing system,” Abe said at a meeting of the council.
At the gathering, health minister Yasuhisa Shiozaki unveiled a plan to review the prices of in-demand drugs up to four times a year. Under Japan’s present health system, drug prices are reviewed once every two years.
Abe made the remarks after private-sector panel members proposed that drug prices should be revised every year rather than every two years. The members said Japan needs a rule for lowering drug prices as demand by patients is expected to increase in the future with the graying of its population.
The move came after the government took the extraordinary measure of halving the price of the highly expensive cancer medication Opdivo from February next year, as a surge in users and attendant medical costs had raised fears of burdening the public health insurance system..
Opdivo, also known as Nivolumab, was initially marketed in Japan in 2014 as a drug to treat melanoma, a type of skin cancer. The drug draw strong demand after it was also found to be effective in treating lung cancer patients, leading to a rise in Japan’s medical costs.
On compiling the fiscal 2017 budget, Abe said the government aims to formulate a budget that will allocate money where appropriate, such as childcare, nursing care, and research and development that will support economic growth.
Nov. 29, 2016