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Pharmaceutical Regulations in Japan

In the Japanese pharmaceutical industry, the journey of developing a new drug is marked by formidable challenges. Statistical data suggests that the success rate for such endeavors falls within the range of 1 in 20,000 to 1 in 30,000. This highlights the tremendous odds that researchers and scientists must overcome to bring a new drug to market. Notably, this process is far from swift, with the development period extending well beyond a decade. To fuel these intricate and time-consuming efforts, substantial investments are essential, amounting to an estimated 120 billion yen or approximately USD $834 million. These figures underscore the significant financial commitment required to pave the way for groundbreaking pharmaceutical discoveries in Japan.

This blog provides a detailed overview of various aspects related to pharmaceutical regulations in Japan.

pharmaceutical regulations in Japan.

Health Authority and Legal Representation:

The primary health authority responsible for pharmaceutical regulations in Japan is the Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency (PMDA). The PMDA serves as a regulatory body that evaluates and approves pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and other related products. It also oversees clinical trials, product safety, and post-marketing surveillance activities. To navigate the regulatory landscape, companies often require legal representation from local Japanese regulatory experts or consultants who can assist in compliance with Japan's pharmaceutical laws.

Product Classification:

Pharmaceutical products in Japan can be categorized into three main groups: General Drugs, New Drugs, and Quasi-Drugs:

- General Drugs consist of conventional medications with a proven track record of safety and effectiveness. Example: Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen fall under this category.

- New Drugs are innovative medications that contain active pharmaceutical ingredients not previously approved in Japan. Example: Recently developed cancer medication is an example of a New Drug.

- Quasi-Drugs possess medicinal properties but are not categorized as drugs. Example: Cosmetics with specific therapeutic claims, such as anti-ageing creams, fall under this category.

Labeling Requirements:

In Japan, the labelling of pharmaceutical products is subject to rigorous regulations to provide clear information to consumers. The labels must include crucial details like the product's name, ingredients, dosage form, recommended usage, precautions, storage requirements, and expiration date. It is mandatory for the labelling to be in Japanese, and in some cases, bilingual labelling (Japanese and English) may be required.

Clinical Trial Requirements:

When conducting clinical trials in Japan, adherence to the "Good Clinical Practice" (GCP) guidelines is essential. Prior approval from the PMDA is required for pharmaceutical companies to commence such trials. The data obtained from these trials holds significant importance in the approval process and subsequent post-marketing surveillance.

Testing Requirements:

In order to ensure the quality, safety, and effectiveness of pharmaceutical products, they undergo a comprehensive testing process. This includes rigorous evaluations on raw materials, finished products, stability testing, and, if applicable, bioequivalence studies. These tests are crucial in maintaining the high standards of pharmaceutical products.

Foreign Testing and Applicability:

In order to ensure the quality, safety, and effectiveness of pharmaceutical products, they undergo a comprehensive testing process. This includes rigorous evaluations on raw materials, finished products, stability testing, and, if applicable, bioequivalence studies. These tests are crucial in maintaining the high standards of pharmaceutical products.

Pre-registration Requirements:

Pharmaceutical companies engage in extensive studies, which encompass non-clinical research and clinical trials, preceding their pursuit of marketing authorization. These comprehensive studies generate crucial data that serves as the foundation for the subsequent registration application.

Registration Process:

In Japan, the registration process for pharmaceutical products entails the submission of either a New Drug Application (NDA) or a General Drug Application to the Pharmaceutical and Medical Devices Agency (PMDA). These applications comprise comprehensive data encompassing the drug's quality, safety, and effectiveness. Additionally, information regarding manufacturing processes and labelling is included. The PMDA meticulously reviews the application and may even conduct on-site inspections to ensure compliance with regulations before granting approval. This rigorous process safeguards the health and well-being of the public.

Approval in EU/US and Progressing Registration:

When it comes to obtaining approval for pharmaceutical products in Japan, it's important to note that approval in the European Union (EU) or the United States does not automatically translate to approval in Japan. However, the data and findings obtained from research conducted in these regions can be utilized to bolster the registration application in Japan. Nonetheless, it's crucial for companies to provide data that is specific to the Japanese population and adhere to the regulatory standards set by Japan. This ensures that the approval process in Japan remains meticulous and aligned with the unique needs and characteristics of its population.

Import and Distribution Requirements:

Once a pharmaceutical product receives marketing authorization in Japan, it can be imported and distributed. However, companies must comply with importation regulations and ensure that the product meets labelling requirements.

List of Documents Required:

The documents needed for registration may differ based on the product classification.

- Here is a general list of documents commonly required for the application:

- Administrative Information: Includes applicant details like company name, address, and contact information.

- Quality Data: Provides information on product composition, manufacturing process, and quality control measures to demonstrate safety and efficacy.

- Non-clinical Study Reports: Summarizes findings from animal studies assessing toxicity and other relevant properties.

- Clinical Study Reports: Presents results from human trials evaluating safety, effectiveness, and dosage requirements.

- Labeling and Packaging Information: Includes materials such as package inserts, patient leaflets, and outer packaging design.

- Pharmacovigilance Plan: Outlines the strategy for monitoring the product's safety post-market, including adverse event reporting.

- Manufacturing and Control Information: Details of manufacturing facility, equipment, processes, and quality control measures.

- These documents collectively support the registration application, ensuring compliance with Japan's safety, efficacy, quality, and labelling regulations.

GMP Inspection Requirements:

GMP inspections, conducted by the PMDA, evaluate pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities and processes for compliance with guidelines. Meeting GMP standards is crucial to obtain marketing authorization.

Timeline and Associated Fees:

During the initial IND consultations, it may take around 30 days, but subsequent consultations can be completed in 14 days. Once the applicant submits the application, the PMDA reviews preclinical data, clinical study protocols, and other required documents.

Regarding associated fees, Japan's PMDA charges various fees for different stages of the application process, including application fees, approval fees, and annual maintenance fees.

Post-Marketing Activities:

a. Pharmacovigilance: Pharmaceutical companies must establish and maintain a system to monitor and report adverse drug reactions and safety issues.

b. Variations: Companies need to submit variations for any approved product changes, such as manufacturing processes or labelling updates.

c. Renewal: Marketing authorizations in Japan have expiration dates, requiring companies to apply for renewal to continue marketing their products.

d. Audits: The PMDA conducts audits to ensure ongoing compliance with regulations.


Japan's pharmaceutical regulations are multifaceted, emphasizing the importance of upholding patient safety and ensuring the quality of pharmaceutical products. The Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency (PMDA) holds pivotal responsibility for scrutinizing applications and upholding regulatory compliance. For companies aspiring to penetrate the Japanese pharmaceutical market, it is crucial to be thoroughly prepared, engage local legal expertise, and meticulously adhere to the regulatory procedures prescribed by the PMDA. This approach will facilitate the successful navigation of Japan's stringent pharmaceutical landscape.


Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency (PMDA):

Japan Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare:

Japan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association:


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