July 14, 2021

Shionogi Moves Away From China in its Drug Feedstock Procurement, to Domestic Production

Japan’s pharmaceutical industry is looking at its drug feedstock production and starting to rethink its reliance on foreign sources.

Companies are starting to bring their production back to Japan for items that would severely impede medical treatment if they ran out, such as antimicrobial agents. Shionogi will start producing feedstocks for surgical antimicrobial agents in Iwate Prefecture as soon as 2022. China has a high share of production of drug feedstocks (around 30%), and that has been indicated as a supply risk. There is a move away from China for the sake of stable procurement, but the shift back to Japan still faces cost issues.

Manufacturers of generics have conventionally relied almost entirely on imports for cephem-type feedstocks. Antimicrobial agents are particularly highly dependent on China, and are administered to guard against post-operative infections. They are vitally important medicines, because if supplies ran out, it would be difficult to perform surgeries, and the maintenance of medical treatment systems would be hit. If operated at full capacity, Shionogi’s production site could cover all its needs. The outlook is that it could cover around one tenth of the entire antimicrobial agent market.

The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare has listed around 500 items, such as antimicrobials and blood thinners, as key drugs for use in medical treatment facilities, and is calling on pharmaceutical companies to secure stable supplies.