ERT’s Visit to Japan by Robert Brown, Senior Vice President, Strategic Partnerships

Editor’s Note:  Less than one month after returning from our trip, the north coast of Japan was hit by a horrible tsunami after an 8.9 magnitude earthquake that occurred 80 miles offshore.  Tsunami waves caused massive destruction and massive loss of life in northern Japan.  If the strength Japan has displayed during past crises is any indication of their resiliency, this tragedy will only be temporary.  There are various international funds set up for the relief effort to which you are encouraged to contribute.  Please show your support.  American Red Cross Disaster Relief Efforts

The Japanese pharmaceutical market is the second largest individual drug market in the world and is a leading nation in scientific/medical research and technology.  The industry accounts for more than 1,000 firms, approximately 20 of which have annual sales of over $500 million USD.  The top ten Pharmaceutical companies in Japan are: Takeda, Astellas, Daiichi Sankyo, Pfizer, Roche (Chugai), Eisai, Dainippon Sumitomo, Novartis, Taisho, and Mitsubishi Pharma. 

Japan’s commercial size has resulted in it being one of the major regions in which all pharmaceutical companies are eager to increase their market share. Furthermore, because of the country’s aging population, obesity, metabolic diseases, cancers, central nervous system diseases, type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease have been steadily increasing, providing a strong incentive for research and development.  Cardiovascular drugs, alimentary canal & metabolism and general anti-infective drugs remain the top selling therapeutic categories in Japan, with cardiovascular drugs accounting for 6 out of the 10 top leading brand products in the market.

Despite the size of the market, Japan has been somewhat slower to grow and to adopt new practices, such as ECG centralization.  However, the Japanese pharmaceutical market has entered a pivotal period of change as Japanese pharmaceutical companies strive towards international competitiveness.   Global companies are also beginning to take advantage of the changing regulatory conditions in Japan.

Since 2005, ERT has partnered with Site Support Institute (SSI), a site management organization who performs both business development and project support work on ERT’s behalf. 

Our Trip to Japan and Site Support Institute. 

On Saturday, February 12th, John Blakeley and I arrived at Tokyo’s Narita International Airport approximately 21 hours after our Philadelphia departure.  With Japan’s clocks 14 hours ahead of USA Eastern time, we lost an entire day.  Would we ever retrieve our lost time?  Fortunately, we had Saturday evening and most of Sunday to get acclimated to our surroundings and new time zone in preparation for the busy week ahead. 

We traveled in Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto, riding four buses, enduring at least 32 train rides and umpteen taxis.  John’s favorite was the Shinkansen (bullet train) which we took between Tokyo – Osaka – Kyoto – Tokyo at speeds up to 300 km/h (186 mph)!

Reinforcing relationships that began over the past 6-years in 12 prior Japan trips of mine, I am frequently remembered as that guy with the “hibi ga haitteru ago” (hibi = crack; ga haitteru = in; ago = chin), due to my now beard-covered prominent cleft chin.  I am also called by some as “Mr. Whisky”, since Kirin Distillery makes a whisky in Japan called Robert Brown.  Our hosts were very polite with John and never once referred to his prominent ears, as far as we could understand!

“Kuidaore,” which literally means “eat until you drop” or “stuff yourself until you can’t eat anymore,” describes Osaka’s food loving culture.  We did not follow their culture literally, however we did manage to eat Okonomi-yaki two nights in a row.  “Okonomi” means “as you like it,” and Okonomi-yaki consists of a batter grilled on a hot plate with diced cabbage, sliced pork (or other meat), shrimp (or other seafood), eggs, and other ingredients. Once grilled, this pancake-like food is topped with a special sauce, mayonnaise, katsuo-bushi (dried fish shavings) and aonori (finely grated dried seaweed). When served and throughout the time the food remains on your plate, the fish shavings move as if alive adding a real dynamic touch to the savory meal.

On Saturday, February 19th, after 21 hours of travel, John and I arrived in Philadelphia at 6pm, just 1 hour, 20 minutes after our 4:40pm departure from Tokyo.  Not bad. We made up for our lost day!


About ERTglobal

ERT is a global technology-driven provider of health outcomes research services and customizable medical devices supporting biopharmaceutical sponsors and contract research organizations (CROs) to achieve their drug development and healthcare objectives. ERT harnesses leading technology coupled with unrivaled processes and scientific expertise to collect, analyze, and report on clinical data to support the determination of health outcomes critical to the approval, labeling and reimbursement of pharmaceutical products. ERT is the acknowledged industry leader in centralized cardiac safety and respiratory efficacy services and also provides electronic Patient Reported Outcomes (ePRO) and outcomes assessments for multiple modalities across all phases.
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