‘Kanpo’ makers up medicine output


Pharmaceutical companies are raising domestic production of Chinese herbal medicine, or “kanpo,” to meet rising demand, especially among seniors.

While most of the crude drugs used to make kanpo are imported from China, many drugmakers here are stepping up efforts to improve domestic production systems and secure stable supplies.

According to the health ministry, domestic production of kanpo medicines totaled ¥132 billion in 2011, about 1.2 times more than in 2006. Nomura Research Institute estimates it will top ¥200 billion in 2015.

Tsumura & Co., a major maker of prescription kanpo medicines, plans to achieve a 1.4-fold increase in its annual production capacity for kanpo extract powder to 4,850 tons by 2015.

The company is expanding a farm where it grows plants for crude drugs in Yubari, Hokkaido, and plans to run a similar farm in Kyushu.

While prescription kanpo drugs draw strong demand, the over-the-counter varieties also have been selling well at drugstores and other outlets.

Kobayashi Pharmaceutical Co. saw its Nicitol, an over-the-counter herbal drug marketed to counter obesity, become a big hit in the mid-2000s.

Looking ahead, an official at drug marketer Kracie Pharmaceutical Ltd. predicted that sales will increase for kanpo products aimed at age-related maladies, such as joint pain.