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Japanese Sales Practices at Pharmaceutical Firms

  • ID: 2781456
  • Report
  • March 2014
  • Region: Japan
  • 23 Pages
  • Japan Pharma Research Office (JPRO)
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  • Astellas
  • Boehringer
  • Dainippon Sumitomo
  • Kowa
  • Mitsubishi Tanabe
  • Pfizer
  • MORE
This report discusses about the general sales practices at pharmaceutical firms in Japan. Readers will gain insight into the current sales activities, regulations, issues, and suggested methodologies.

The number of Medical Representatives (MR) in Japan is on the rise each year. Today there are approximately 64,000 MR in the country. In particular, significant increase at CSO (Contract Sales Organization) can be identified, which has grown to account for nearly 5% of the total. As overseas firms expand their portfolios, their number of MR is also on the rise in Japan, with half of the top twenty firms by number of MR being non-Japanese firms.

Among developed nations, Japan follows the United States in terms of number of MR. However, at the same time, when we look at the number of physicians per number of MR, the United States has approximately thirteen (physicians/MR), while Japan has below five, so we see considerable gap and an outstanding issue in terms of productivity.

MR activities in Japan resemble those in Europe and the US in terms of MR providing information about their firms' products. However, the social status of physicians is quite high in Japan, and MR's knowledge base is rather weak, then, MR tend to hesitate to make calls, and they think that making advance appointments is difficult, so many MR in Japan wait on standby outside medical offices for a long time in order to catch physicians on-site. Even though they are finally able to meet, conversations can be done within five minutes in length. As a result, sales department easily move to business en-tertainment and extreme special treatment to physicians, to attract them. Industry bodies have established guidelines and called for restraint, but these rules have had little effi-cacy so far.

While people see less productivity in sales activities, we have not seen decreasing number of MR, which has been actually increasing instead. The unique MR skillset and the Japanese “old” employment system, which emphasized long-term employment, created a situation that renders both internal transfer and dismissal difficult. Also, the pharmaceutical industry has enjoyed considerably high profits, meaning that even bear-ing these fixed labor costs in mind, there has been no sense of urgency to firms' economic viability.

However, at the same time, the MR climate is steadily changing. The use of contract MR is becoming more widespread. New guidelines are calling for greater transparency. The approach of M3, Inc., and others like it, of providing medical information online is rapidly gaining ground. Amidst this, the true presence of “physical” MR is increasingly being called into question.

In the short term, there are unlikely to be major changes to the current personnel system. In the medium term, as contract MR increase and the Internet is further used for the provision of medical information, there will likely be changes to MR employment and organizational adjustments to follow.
For foreign firms entering in Japanese market, this may be an opportunity to enter a market that offers a great degree of flexibility and provide a new business model. Firms should leverage outsourcing in various fields not only in manufacturing and clinical development, but also in sales and marketing, keeping a slim organization inhouse.
Note: Product cover images may vary from those shown
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3 of 5


  • Astellas
  • Boehringer
  • Dainippon Sumitomo
  • Kowa
  • Mitsubishi Tanabe
  • Pfizer
  • MORE
1. Summary
2. Scope Discussed
3. Medical Representative
4. Number of MR
5. Number of MR by Company
6. Number of MR by Country
7. Is the number of MR in Japan reasonable?
8. Why So Many MR in Japan?
9. Regulations Concerning the Sale of Pharmaceuticals
10. Financial Contributions to Medical Institutions, Universities, and Physicians
11. Curbing Extreme Sales Tactics
12. Theoretical Underpinnings of Business & HR Strategy at Foreign Firms in Japan
13. Declining MR's Presence
14. Future Outlook
Note: Product cover images may vary from those shown
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- Astra Zeneka
- Astellas
- Bayer
- Boehringer
- Chugai
- Daiichi Sankyo
- Dainippon Sumitomo
- Eisai
- Glaxo
- Kowa
- Kyowa Hakko Kirin
- Lilly
- Mitsubishi Tanabe
- Novartis
- Pfizer
- Sanoif
- Shionogi
- Takeda
Note: Product cover images may vary from those shown
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Note: Product cover images may vary from those shown