Japan’s pharma market is one of the world’s biggest, with a value of around USD 95 billion, according to figures from the country’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW). Japanese firms have a particularly strong standing in their home market, making up six of the country’s top ten pharma companies. Moreover, the likes of Takeda, Daiichi Sankyo, and Chugai are now significant global players. Here, we present the top ten pharma companies in Japan based on data for 2019 sales of ethical drugs in USD billions.
CEO: Christophe Weber
Japanese pharma firm Takeda, founded in 1781, is headquartered in Tokyo and has a presence in 80 countries, including the US. Its focus is oncology, gastroenterology, neuroscience and rare diseases. The firm also works to develop plasma-derived therapies and vaccines. Takeda has recently joined CSL Behring, Biotest, BPL, LFB and Octapharma to form the CoVIg-19 Plasma Alliance which is developing an investigational Hyperimmune globulin (H-Ig) medicine to fight COVID-19 using plasma from healthy patients who have recovered from the virus.
2. Daiichi Sankyo
CEO: Sunao Manabe
The merger of Daiichi Pharmaceutical and Sankyo in 2005 formed the firm now known as Daiichi Sankyo. The Tokyo-based company has traditionally focused on drugs that treat cardiovascular disease but now aims to become a global innovator in oncology. Daiichi Sankyo is also expanding its research to include the specialty areas of rare diseases and immune disorders. Its pipeline currently has several oncology products in clinical trials, including drugs for breast cancer, colorectal cancer, gastric cancer and non-small cell lung cancer.
Country president: Akihisa Harada
Pfizer Japan, established in Tokyo in 1953, has two business divisions, the Biopharmaceuticals Business Division and the Upjohn Business Division. The biopharmaceutical division has a broad focus on various therapeutic areas including oncology, immunology, orphan diseases, vaccines, biosimilars and generics. The Upjohn business unit develops drugs to treat cardiovascular disease, pain and mental illness.
CEO: Tatsuro Kosaka
Chugai counts a nearly 20-year strategic alliance with Roche as one of its top strengths. In addition, the Japanese pharma firm touts its antibody engineering technologies, personalized healthcare and advanced patient-centric solutions as competitive advantages. Chugai has had the biggest market share in the Japanese oncology market for over 10 years and is currently developing products for bone and joint diseases and renal diseases.
CEO: Kenji Yasukawa
Astellas Pharma, originally founded in Osaka in 1923 and later relocated to Tokyo, has a robust pipeline of oncology products. The firm’s key approved drugs are immunosuppressants as well as treatments for prostate cancer, acute myeloid leukaemia, and overactive bladder. Its current top research focus areas are cell therapy for vision treatment, products for allergies and autoimmune diseases, genetic regulation to advance in gene therapy, and mitochondrial replacement therapy.
CEO: Makoto Inoue
Otsuka was established in 1964 and its first launched product was a specialty beverage called ORONAMIN C, a vitamin C supplement. The company began developing pharmaceutical products in 1970, and is currently split into two divisions of pharmaceutical and nutraceutical business units. Its pharmaceutical focus is developing drugs for the central nervous system, oncology, cardiovascular, renal, tuberculosis and ophthalmology. Its nutraceutical lineup includes beverages, skincare, sports nutrition, and soy food and beverage products.
Country president: Jannie Oosthuizen
Counting more than 125 years in drug research and development, MSD (known as Merck & Co. in the United States and Canada) works globally to develop effective drugs for diabetes, infectious diseases and oncology as well as vaccines. Its blockbuster cancer drug Keytruda has continued to gain new FDA approvals for further indications. MSD’s Japanese affiliate was created from the merging of Banyu Pharmaceutical Schering-Plow in 2010.
8. Mitsubishi Tanabe
CEO: Hiroaki Ueno
Japanese pharmaceutical company Mitsubishi Tanabe has its origins dating back over 400 years, starting as “Tanabeya Infusing Medicine.” After a number of mergers, today the company develops drugs related to autoimmune and central nervous system diseases as well as a strong research focus on vaccines and orphan diseases. Headquartered in Chūō-ku, Osaka, the firm’s top three approved drugs are Imusera (Gilenya) for multiple sclerosis, Radicava (Radicut) for ALS, and Remicade for joint pain related to rheumatism.
President: Paul Relette
GlaxoSmithKline, known globally as GSK, works in three main areas of prescription medicines, vaccines and consumer healthcare. The company continually works to develop new medicines in respiratory diseases, HIV and infectious diseases, oncology and immuno-inflammation. GSK has created vaccines for pneumococcal disease, meningitis, hepatitis, rotavirus, whooping cough and influenza, among others.
President: Tsunaba Issei
Managing Director: Brian Gladsden
Novartis Japan is a subsidiary of Swiss multinational Novartis Pharmaceuticals. From its headquarters in Minato City, Tokyo and various offices and manufacturing sites, this local affiliate leverages the company’s global network to research and develop medicines for a number of areas including cardiovascular, metabolic, respiratory, ophthalmology, central nervous system, transplantation, skin, immunity and cancer. The firm operates under an umbrella encompassing the three divisions of innovative new medicines, eyecare, and generic drugs.