President Donald Trump has pledged to reverse what he describes as "astronomical" drug prices in the United States. Thousands of kilometers away, Japan, long a profit sanctuary for multinational pharmaceutical companies, is taking a similar tack.

Somewhere in the ballpark of ¥10 trillion is spent annually on medications in Japan, and the government plays a key role in prices because it covers about 40 percent of the country's health spending via the national insurance scheme.

In December, officials announced plans to review drug prices more frequently: annually for all therapies and quarterly for the newest and most expensive ones that are used widely.