By Ames Gross, President, Pacific Bridge Medical
There are 30 million Japanese over the age of 65, accounting for almost 25% of the Japanese population. Japan also has a purchasing power parity GDP per capita close to $40,000, and Japanese seniors are responsible for more than 50% of consumer spending. Japanese have a very high life expectancy – and age-related medical problems are on the rise in Japan. Overall, Japan’s rapidly aging and wealthy society offers many opportunities for large, medium and small sized Western medical device companies. Four key device segments in the Japanese elder care market are:
1. Cancer Devices
Cancer is the leading cause of death in Japan, with stomach and lung cancers the most common. Japanese cancer treatment hospitals have advanced treatment and diagnostic systems, procuring many of their devices from the West. Sophisticated devices such as particle and gamma knifes are common.
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One of the top companies in Japan’s imaging and diagnostics sector is GE Healthcare Japan. Several years ago, GE kicked off a “Silver to Gold” strategy, developing innovative devices for Japan’s aging population. During product development, GE asks Japanese doctors for feedback and incorporates the ideas into its product designs – resulting in successful devices that are targeted towards the specific needs of Japan’s elderly.
2. Cardiovascular Devices and Implants
Attributable in part to diet and lifestyle changes in Japan, cardiovascular disease is increasing, especially for the elderly. Implantable cardiovascular devices – such as aortic pericardial heart valves and left ventricular assist devices – are in high demand in Japan. Advanced stents are also a growing market segment. Devices that are adjustable or come in a variety of sizes are particularly well received.
Japan also has a huge intravascular imaging market, especially for devices that diagnose, treat, and assist with surgical procedures. Several Western companies have recently started marketing MRI-safe in Japan. Other implantable devices, such as those that correct vision or hearing issues, will see strong demand in the future.
3. Orthopedic Devices
More and more elderly Japanese are opting for joint reconstruction and replacements – and they prefer high quality devices that let them lead an active lifestyle. By revenue, Japan already makes up about 50% of the orthopedic device market in Asia.
The country’s large joint market (e.g., knee implants) is worth almost $1.6 billion, while the small joint market (e.g., shoulder implants) is about half as large. The Japanese market for minimally invasive spinal surgery is also one of the biggest in the world. Open surgery spinal implants are also a strong market.
4. Hi-tech, Nursing Homes, and Homecare Devices
Due to demographic challenges, the Japanese government has been promoting advanced technology for elder care. Assistive robots that can help with tasks like lifting elderly patients into/out of bed or robotic mobility devices will see increasingly strong demand.
The Japanese tradition of elderly parents moving in with their children is less popular nowadays. The number of nursing homes has exploded, growing more than 450% over the past 10 years. Private nursing facilities are now common. Also, the number of home healthcare service providers has grown almost 400% over the past 14 years. The market for medical devices, such as portable dialysis machines, that can be used in home healthcare and nursing homes is growing rapidly.
Medical devices that are innovative, advanced and meet the needs of Japan’s elderly will see many market opportunities in the next 20-30 years. My advice for Western device companies? Carpe Mercatum – Seize the Market!
Ames Gross is president and founder of Pacific Bridge Medical, a Bethesda, Md.-based consulting firm that helps medical companies doing business in the Asia market. A recognized national and international leader in the Asian medical markets, he founded Pacific Bridge Medical in 1988, which has helped hundreds of medical companies with business development and regulatory issues in Asia. For more information, visit www.pacificbridgemedical.com.