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[Event Report] The 27th Special Breakfast Meeting“617 Days as Minister of the MHLW” featuring former Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare, Mr. Norihisa Tamura

[Event Report] The 27th Special Breakfast Meeting“617 Days as Minister of the MHLW” featuring former Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare, Mr. Norihisa Tamura
Health and Global Policy Institute held a special event in Tokyo on October 27, 2014 entitled, “617 Days as Minister of the MHLW.” This event’s distinguished guest was former Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare, Mr. Norihisa Tamura (Member of the House of Representatives, Liberal Democratic Party Policy Research Council Acting Chairman).

-As you look back on your 617 days as MHLW,
could you share a few of your lasting impressions?

Within one year and eight months, there were 4,600 statements given at Diet sessions on very specific areas of a wide variety of topics. In short, it was busy. Regulatory reform on issues including special medical districts and internet sales of OTC drugs was followed by, in the last stretch of my term, dengue fever and kiken (law-evading) drugs. Careful, yet rapid action was absolutely essential.

-What is a typical day as Health Minister like?
Arrive at the Diet building by 7am and have a meeting about the day’s arguments and defenses. From 9am enter into Committee meetings. MHLW meetings at their shortest are five hours, while longer ones can last seven hours. At night, return to the lodging house, fax arrives, read the next day’s issues and corresponding defenses, and, when necessary, make edits. It was not uncommon for it to be 1 or 2am by the time I finished working on these documents.

-Your extensive policy knowledge and your steady handed statements brought praise from not only members of your own party and those within the MHLW, but from members of the opposition party. And you contributed significantly to a comprehensive medical and long-term care act that comprised 19 different bills.
A policy package like that was exceptional, but it was approved. My time as Health Committee Chairman and MHLW Parliamentary Secretary truly came in handy. And thanks to my experience being in the opposition party, I have great understanding of the opposition’s viewpoint and tactics. I was able to have constructive discussions with various members of the opposition party. Both the ruling party and the opposition party share the same goal to work for the country.

-You were a Health Minister that dealt with a lot of crisis management.
The need to address issues including kiken drugs and clinical study data scandals made it apparent that the Health Minister’ s job requires a lot of crisis management. Working incooperation with the Chairman of the National Public Safety Commission, we were able to take prompt action to address kiken drugs, which had become a huge problem.

-Scandals in the pharmaceutical industry and health care happened one after another. In July, you asked the President of the Japan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association to urge the industry to boost efforts to clean up their act. Was this a warning?
Yes, it was. Scandals happened one after another. In the Ministry and at the LDP, and even with the Prime Minister’s office, there was a sense of
emergency. Continuous instances of dishonesty with clinical studies led to a scandal in the pharmaceutical industry. The Health, Labour, and Welfare Committee within the House of Councilors even held a special session specifically to address the industry scandal issue. It because an exceptional case. Funding disbursements disclosure should be transparent, showing that there has been a voluntary effort to reform. This will help the pharmaceutical industry as well.
-It was reported that the 2014 revision of medical fee reimbursement schedule involved a lots of intense back and forth with financial authorities.
It was truly challenging. It was close, but a compromise was finally reached in order to maintain the quality of social security. There were some intense exchanges with the Ministry of Finance. There was a sense amongst all the group involved, the MHLW, the Prime Minister’s office, and the LDP that we had truly stuck it out until the end.

-Based on your experience at the MHLW, what are the most important policies and issues that you see for the future Japanese healthcare policy?
The key to policy making is a politician’s ability to make decisions. I am sure there are those who that think the government moves slowly, but a bureaucrat with a decided upon goal can go at full speed. Politicians, regardless of party affiliation, have a duty to show initiative and take responsibility for the position he or she has taken. Ongoing issues include how to ensure the sustainability of healthcare, prevention and health using health IT and data, and, finally, dementia and other issues that are arise in an aging society. Each of these issues must be address without delay.

(Interviewer: Kohei Onozaki)

Exhibition date:2014-10-27

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