On Nov. 30, against the background of the government’s beginning to finalize a plan for the annual revision of National Health Insurance (NHI) prices for all drugs, the Central Social Insurance Medical Council held its own meeting. An advisory panel for the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, the council gathered to discuss the reform of the NHI pricing system with the same aim of curbing the nation’s growing medical costs.
At the meeting, a government plan to implement annual NHI drug price revisions, which was included in a Nov. 25 proposal from the government’s Council of Economic and Fiscal Policy, met with strong opposition from members and calls for thorough discussion.
Since a decision was announced to slash by 50% the price of the highly expensive cancer treatment drug Opdivo starting in February next year, the MHLW has been hopeful about achieving a better drug pricing system that would allow more flexible drug price evaluation.
The MHLW explained to the gathering of medical council members the details of the government council’s discussion, proposed agenda and method to be adopted. The item that provoked the strongest opposition was the implementation of annual NHI drug price revisions. Also highly unpopular was Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s instruction for the government council to finalize a basic policy by the end of the year.
The Japan Medical Association also opposes annual NHI drug price revisions. JMA Chairman Yoshitake Yokokura said during a press conference on Nov. 30 that annual revisions of NHI drug prices across the board would be impossible. “Market research will take three to four months and will consume the time and energy of the medical institutions and manufacturers. Each revision will mean greater cost.”