Deprecated Yen attracting renewed international interest in Japanese pharma

Published: 1-Mar-2023

Half of all exhibitors at CPHI Japan are international as business links strengthen with Switzerland, Korea, USA and the UK

CPHI Japan 2023 opens in April (19-21) as the country undergoes a huge resurgence in international trade, with Western companies from Switzerland, the USA and UK delivering the largest numbers of international exhibiting companies. Remarkably for a pharma economy that has been historically insular nearly half of exhibitors (197 of 416) at the event are from international companies. In fact, the entire event has been sold out since early October emphasising the sudden surge in demand.

In total some 20,000 executives are expected and the exhibition will return to its pre-pandemic prominence for the first time since 2019, with more than 79 countries in attendance – a rapid turnaround from 2022 when the majority of overseas buyers were unable to attend. One sector predicted to see a sizeable boom at the event is generic imports, which are still underrepresented in Japan, with visitors from India, South Korea and China looking to help meet the country’s recent drug shortages. 

“The country has been quietly growing its international supply chains in recent years with increasing numbers of international exhibitors and attendees at the event. Moreover, the relative depreciation in the Japanese Yen has led to growth in both international attendance and partnering at the event at this year’s event. Notably, the greatest numbers of visiting companies we see come from the traditional Western pharma countries – Switzerland, USA and the UK – home to many of the world’s largest Big Pharma companies rather than regional Asian partners.” commented Jenny Leung, Regional Manager, Informa Markets.

The Japanese pharma industry is anticipated to see strong growth in the next few years with pharma sales in the country reaching $118bn by 2026 up from 106bn in 2022, with per capita spend also increasing to $959 (up from $845 in 2022) and ranking second only to the USA globally. Crucially for international companies, the favoured market entry strategy is via partnerships with domestic firms, licensing deals and research collaborations with universities – emphasising the importance of attending the event to build local networks.

Interest from international audiences about how to enter Japan and find regional suppliers, distributors and manufacturers has never been stronger. What is notable is that this internationalisation is now two-way

To help accelerate the internationalisation of the Japanese pharma industry, Mr. Yoshida Yasunori, Director, Pharmaceutical Evaluation Division, Pharmaceutical Safety and Environmental Health Bureau, Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) will provide keynote insights on regulatory conditions in the country – with the event hosting 200 seminars and sessions. Explored more prescriptively, and the exhibitor showcases themselves provide further evidence of the shift in market dynamics underway, with the vast majority delivered from international CDMOs. These companies are attending in large numbers with the goal of helping Japanese innovators develop and commercialise new targets more expeditiously. 

The 2023 edition will also mark the event’s 20th anniversary and will see a number of special events introduced, including an award ceremony to celebrate the companies that have been integral in helping build the pharma industry in Japan. 

“Interest from international audiences about how to enter Japan and find regional suppliers, distributors and manufacturers has never been stronger. What is notable is that this internationalisation is now two-way, with many generic, CDMO and ingredients providers looking to partner in Japan. But simultaneously, we also see increasing numbers of international attendees looking to buy from manufacturers in Japan and the wider region.”

In fact, competition for partners and supply chain resources is increasing quickly, and more than 60% of Japanese companies state their potential partners are ‘approaching them much earlier than before’ according to the CPHI data – with 81% of attendees at the event having purchasing responsibility.

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