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Promising self-medication segments in Japan

Feature picture: Photo by David Edelstein on Unsplash 

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The self-medication and prescription drug market in Japan is expected to reach more than 163.3 billion USD in 2035 (at ex-factory price). The OTC share is claiming a larger portion of this market, thanks to the aging population, rising health consciousness and cultural norms promoting self-care.

Key OTC segments in Japan

    1. Analgesics are the leading over-the-counter treatment in Japan 

    The market value of pain management segment in Japan is projected to grow at a CAGR of 4% in a 10-year period until 2033. Currently, this market is estimated to be 2.5 billion USD in retail sales value. There are several driving factors for this leading market, including:

    • Rising geriatric population with a higher prevalence of chronic pain conditions, such as arthritis, which often require ongoing pain management.
    • Intense working culture: Japanese employees are often facing long working hours and high levels of stress. This results in conditions like tension headaches and back pain, encouraging individuals to seek for pain management drugs.
    • Medical Tourism: Japan is a destination for medical tourism. Moreover, visitors may seek over-the-counter analgesics for pain relief during their stay, especially when hiking and trekking Japanese famous Fuji.

    2. Respiratory System segment is predicted to expand significantly

    A recent report has forecasted the number of lung cancer cases would double in Japan in the next 20 years. This is just one of the reasons for the substantial growth of this segment, the other factors are as follows:

    • Air Pollution: Japan has a densely populated urban environment. With people living in close neighborhoods, the risk of spreading respiratory infections is higher. In addition, Japanese people are generally health-conscious and proactive in managing their health. It is important for consumers to manage their symptoms and reduce the risk of infecting others.
    • Actions from the government and healthcare organizations are also making huge impacts on public awareness about respiratory issues, encouraging people to take proactive steps to prevent the situation with OTC products.

    3. First aid kits demand in Japan ranks top 5 worldwide

    The reasons for high demand of First aid kits in Japan are mainly related to the country’s natural and social characteristics.

    • Natural Disasters: Japan is often prone to earthquakes, tsunamis, typhoons, and other natural disasters. First aid kits are considered essential for households and businesses to provide immediate medical assistance in case of emergencies.
    • Cultural Norms: Discipline is highly valued in Japan, emphasizing the importance of being well-prepared and self-reliant. Therefore, being equipped with a well-stocked first aid kit is highly expected in this country.
    • Workplace Regulations: Japanese labor laws require employers to provide first aid kits and training to their employees. This is especially important in workplaces where there is a higher risk of injuries or accidents.
    Top 3 promising self-medication segments in Japan in 2024

    Figure 1. Most promising OTC segments in Japan

    Rx-to-OTC switch in Japan (“Switch OTC”)

    In Japan, the process of transferring a prescription drug to non-prescription (OTC) status is regulated by the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW). It has been a very cautious and rigorous transition to ensure the safety of the consumers. It typically involves a thorough review of the drug’s safety and efficacy, including examining the proposed OTC drugs, conducting clinical trials, and reviewing extensive safety and efficacy data before granting approval. Recently, the most commonly switched Rx drugs to OTC status in Japan have been those for minor ailments, including certain pain relievers, cold and flu medications, and gastrointestinal medications.



    Thanks to several dynamic market driving factors, the self-medication segment in Japan is offering exciting opportunities for innovative OTC and FS products. We at Chameleon Pharma Consulting Group with experience and expertise gained via more than 300 international projects are happy to assist you in analyzing your product portfolio in Japan, as well as supporting you in developing market entry strategies in this promising market.


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