Showa Period


Showa Period

Drug Production during Wartime

With Japan’s international isolation increasing, the government strongly promoted the nationalization of drugs as a national policy. As a result, in 1936 the volume of Japanese drug production exceeded drug imports, and the pharmaceutical industry entered its peak period. However, domestic production after this time was biased toward military demand, and it became nearly impossible to produce drugs around the end of the war.On the other hand, drugs that were needed in everyday life had a position in this tightly controlled economy, and were designated for rationing. Production and distribution were controlled by the Japan Pharmaceutical Product Control Corporation, sales prices were set at an official price, and companies could not engage in their own sales activities. However, pharmaceutical wholesalers(Oroshi) pushed through the fires of war even in the face of death to ensure the availability of rationed products and to preserve inventories.

Era of Chaos and Reconstruction

The pharmaceutical industry was dealt a death blow by World War II. After the war, however, the United States gave permission for penicillin to be produced and sold in Japan. This became an opportunity for many companies to enter the pharmaceutical industry, setting drug production on a path toward steady recovery.In terms of distribution, however, rationing was continued due to a shortage of supplies, and there was ongoing chaos in the form of extremely high official prices and high-priced trading of black market goods. Rationing finally ended when supply stability was achieved, and official prices were abolished, but overproduction then resulted in a severe price collapse. The mass production of penicillin in particular led to cutthroat price competitiveness. In addition, there were many companies that expanded sales and business operations based on boom triggered by the Korean War, only to end up going bankrupt.In the midst of this chaos, the Federation of Japan Pharmaceutical Wholesalers Association (JPWA) was established in 1954 to independently solve distribution challenges through such efforts as the optimization of pharmaceutical prices and the rationalization of the wholesale business.

1920s–1940s Timeline

  • Medicine and Pharmaceuticals
  • Society
Promulgation of the Health Insurance Act
Financial crisis
First regular election is held
Manchurian Incident
Secession from the League of Nations
Sino-Japanese War begins
National Pharmaceutical Ingredient Rationing System Association is established
World War II begins
Federation of Regional Pharmaceutical Wholesalers (predecessor of the JPWA) is launched Promulgation of the Pharmaceutical and Medical Supplies Production Rationing Regulations Establishment of Japan Pharmaceutical Production Control Corporation Establishment of Japan Pharmaceutical Rationing Control Corporation
Pacific War begins
Peak period of pharmaceutical production (400 million yen/year)
Establishment of the Japan Pharmaceutical Product Control Corporation (merger of eight controlling institutions, including the Production Control Corporation and the Rationing Control Corporation) Domestic production of penicillin begins
First B29 air raids over Japan begin, school compounds are evacuated
Pacific War ends
Abolition of the Pharmaceutical and Medical Supplies Production Rationing Regulations
Establishment of the Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers’ Associations of Japan (FPMAJ)
Domestic production of penicillin proceeds at full speed
Pharmaceutical price controls are completely abolished Drug price standard system is formulated
Korean War begins business boom is triggered
US-Japan Security Treaty is signed
Establishment of the Federation of Japan Pharmaceutical Wholesalers Association (JPWA)


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