Why the Japanese Don’t Export More Pharmaceuticals: Health Policy as Industrial Policy

by Michael Reich



Japan has the second largest single-county market for pharmaceutical products in the world but is one of the lowest exporters among the major producer countries, with only about 3% of total production going to exports for most of the postwar period. Imports continue to exceed exports by about a three-to-one ratio. This article shows how domestic public policies nurtured and promoted the Japanese pharmaceutical industry and created a domestic focus through a highly regulated market with government-set prices. Health policy in effect has served as implicit industrial policy. In the 1980s, as a result of changes in health policy combined with changes in business strategy, the Japanese pharmaceutical industry emerged as a global competitor.

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