Grow with Japan’s pharmaceutical industries


Japan’s pharmaceutical industry with about US$ 120 billion annual sales is the world’s third largest, with a single decision maker on reimbursement, and rapidly changing. Drug approvals for foreign origin therapies are increasingly streamlined. Japan has plenty of innovation, for example, Moderna’s first ever acquisition was a Japanese pharma venture.

Japan’s pharma industry overview

Japan’s pharmaceutical market is the third largest globally:

  • USA US$ 425 billion (2020)
  • Europa US$ 200 billion (2020)
  • Japan US$ 150 billion (2020)
  • China US$ 120 billion (2924)

Japan’s pharma industry may be differently structured than in other major countries:

  • traditional pharma companies (including the 15 largest are listed below),
  • new entrants (eg brewery companies, electrical conglomerates, chemical conglomerates, rubber companies…. diversifying into the life science sector)
  • pharma manufacturing, contract cell manufacturers (eg FujiFilm)
  • ventures (eg cell therapy, regenerative medicine sectors)
  • medical equipment (eg Olympus)
  • and other sectors

“Therapy gap” and “therapy lag” drive opening of Japan’s pharma markets and pharma industries

Japan’s pharmaceutical industry is on a journey bringing fundamental changes and opportunities, driven by a “therapy gap” and by global paradigm changes in pharmaceutical research and modalities, eg the invention of antibody therapies, and a revolution in genetic science, driven eg by Next Generation Sequencing (NGS), AI and bio-banks.

Not so long ago Japan’s pharma business model was to keep foreign pharma companies out and support the growth of domestic Japanese pharma companies, we are in the middle of a fundamental paradigm shift: 

  • measures to overcome Japan’s “therapy gap” (ie there is a substantial number of advanced therapies approved in Europe and in USA, but not on the market in Japan). 
  • accelerate the growth of global pharma companies based on R&D and discoveries in Japan
  • accelerating and international cooperation for the drug approval process

Japan’s top pharma groups

There has been far less consolidation than in other markets, and until recently most of Japan’s pharmaceutical companies were inward oriented to the Japanese market. Only recently did Japanese pharma companies start to globalize. Japan’s top pharma companies are (ranked by annual sales):

  1. Chugai (Hoffmann-La Roche holds 61.16% of shares excluding treasury stock, 59.89% of outstanding shares) sales US$ 5.2 billion (2022)
  2. Takeda US$ 5 billion
  3. Eisai US$ 4 billion
  4. Astellas US$ 3.8 billion
  5. Otsuka Holdings US$ 3.6 billion
  6. Daiichi Sankyo US$ 3.2 billion
  7. Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma (absorbed by Mitsubishi Chemical) US$ 2.7 billion
  8. Sawai Pharmaceutical US$ 2 billion
  9. Kyowa Hakko Kirin US$ 1.8 billion
  10. Shionogi US$ 1.6 billion
  11. Santen Pharma US$ 1.5 billion
  12. Ono Pharma US$ 1.3 billion
  13. Nippon Shinyaku US$ 1.2 billion
  14. Sumitomo Pharma (was Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma) US$ 1.1 billion
  15. Mochida Pharma US$ 1 billion

Our data base / business platform in Japan’s pharma sector includes:

  • 110 Japanese pharmaceutical companies (far beyond the top 15 listed below, and including a long tail of small and mid-sized pharma companies and ventures),
  • 230 Japanese companies in the regenerative medicine, cell therapy sector
  • data base of pharma organizations, research centers, research parks, venture funds, research organizations and more