Over the Counter (OTC) Drugs in Japan

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Japan has a huge domestic pharmaceuticals market, the biggest in the world after the United States with annual sales of between 7 and 8 trillion yen (USD88 - 100 billion) of which about USD8.7 billion's worth is in over the counter (OTC) (i.e. non-prescription) drugs.

With the rise of health foods and other health-related lifestyle products, the figure for OTC sales in Japan is on the way down. However, Japan remains an OTC drug paradise, with a huge range of products, many of them drawing on traditional Chinese medicine for their supposed efficacy, and many of them promising added vigor and stamina.

 The drugs in the photo above, taken in a Tokyo drug store, feature maca, the root from South America that purportedly can increase libido, turmeric (known as ukon in Japanese) that is supposed to be good for the digestion and have anti-cancer properties, garlic, zinc, and mixtures of all four.

Hyaluronan, a substance used in the body for tissue growth and healing, is also a popular ingredient in OTC medicines, and a few can be seen on the bottom shelf in the photo.

 (The statistics quoted here are from Yoku Wakaru Iyakuhin Gyokai (Understanding the Pharmaceutical Industry) by Tsuyoshi Nagao, Nippon Jitsugyo Publishing, 2007.)

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