OTC (Over-the-Counter Drugs) Market in Japan: Key Research Findings 2022

Differences in Drug Demands by Efficacy Observed in OTC Market, Affected by COVID-19 Pandemic

Yano Research Institute (the President, Takashi Mizukoshi) carried out a survey on the domestic OTC (Over-the-Counter Drugs) market, and found out the market trends, trends by drug efficacy, trends of market players, and future outlook. 

Transition and Forecast of Domestic OTC Drugs Market Size
Transition and Forecast of Domestic OTC Drugs Market Size

Market Overview

The OTC drugs market size (total of nonprescription drugs and designated quasi-pharmaceutical products) in 2021 grew by 0.1% to have attained 838,000 million yen, based on the shipment value at manufacturers. The details were: OTC drugs grew by 0.4% to 699,000 million yen, designated quasi drugs declined by 1.4% to 139,000 million yen. Though managed to maintain positive growth, the overall market growth remained low.

Since 2020, there have been differences in drug demands by efficacy due to the impact of spread of new coronavirus infections: While the sales of eye drops, having occupied a high proportion of inbound demand (foreign tourists visiting Japan), became sluggish after entry restrictions, antipyretic analgesics sold well for being taken after vaccination.

Noteworthy Topics

For Market Recovery, It is Imperative to Vitalize the Domestic Market by Pressing Ahead with Self Medication by Use of OTC Drugs

Although the OTC drugs market has been on a slight uptrend, when limiting to domestic demand, it can hardly be said as completely gotten out of stagnant conditions. As inbound tourism demand has been severely affected by entry restrictions in the pandemic since 2020. With the future outlook uncertain, the domestic market requires to be fully revitalized, in order for the market to continue growing.

To this end, the followings can be the solutions:, 1) creating new market by releasing Rx-to-OTC switches (switching of prescribed drugs to OTC drugs) into new areas, or by releasing Rx-to-OTC switches with new efficacies, 2) Generating new demand by releasing new products with unprecedented angles, 3) Finding out potential demand from existing drug effects by appealing from different points of views, 4) Creating a system for providing information and consultation at retailers, 5) Expanding new opportunities for drug sales in association with increasing number of new entries from different retailing business.

Through these attempts of new product promotions and enhancement of providing information, it is necessary to improve awareness of self-medication and to encourage people to act, such as making a habit of managing one’s own health.

Future Outlook

The OTC drugs market is projected to remain 839,000 million yen in 2022, a rise by 0.1% on a YoY basis. The details are: OTC drugs expected to increase by 0.4% to 702,000 million yen, while designated quasi drugs to decline by 1.4% to 137,000 million yen.

In 2022, the market is expected to grow from favorable sales of high-value added eye drops, expanding sales of antipyretic analgesics due to those products with higher analgesic effect, in addition to the attempts of new product releases by regular renovation of each efficacy. Although inbound tourism demand has still been on a decline from the COVID-19 crisis, the changes in the situation is being in focus, as there is a sign of lifting entry restrictions. On the other hand, health drinks or mini drinks of designated quasi-pharmaceutical products, gastrointestinal drugs, and medicines for athlete's foot continue showing market shrinkage. Therefore, while OTC drugs market keeps on growing, the growth rate is likely to level off or on a slight uptrend.

Research Outline

1.Research Period: April to June 2022
2.Research Object: Domestic leading OTC enterprises (manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, etc.)
3.Research Methogology: Face-to-face interviews (online included) by the expert researchers, surveys via telephone/email, and literature research

About OTC (Over-the-Counter) Drugs Market

OTC stands for “Over the Counter” and OTC drugs refer to the medicines sold to customers without the need of any prescription from health care professionals.

Size of the OTC drugs market in this research has been calculated by totaling the shipment amounts of both OTC drugs (total of guidance-needed medicines, first, second, and third-category nonprescription drugs) and designated quasi drugs (which are items that became quasi drugs designated by Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare). The figures from 2007 to 2011 are quoted from “Statistics of Production by Pharmaceutical Industry” by MHLW.

<Products and Services in the Market>

Cold remedies, Health drinks, tonic drinks, mini-drinks, Vitamin preparations, Digestive remedies, Intestinal remedies and antidiarrheal agents, Antipyretic analgesics, Eye drops, Cataplasms and plasters

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