Table Speech

Initiation Speech
Medical Devices, its Advancement and Challenges

September 10, 2014

Mr. Takashi Wachi
Honorary Chairman,
The Japan Federation of Medical Devices Association.

 In the last 20 years, medical devices have made marvelous progress following a conceptual change from simply providing treatment to patients to providing them safe treatment with less physical burden. Medical devices are classified into therapeutic devices and diagnostic devices. Therapeutic devices found in our daily life include:
(1) “Injections”, which are practically non-painful today. The thinnest needle is only 0.12mm, as thin as the mosquito needle. The introduction of disposable syringes helped to alleviate concern over the spread of viruses, including hepatitis.

(2) Cardiac therapy by open-heart surgery was commonly given to patients with infarction and ischemia diseases. Today, physicians put a catheter from a patient’s wrist to the location of obstruction through the vessel, inflate the balloon on the tip, and place a tiny tube called “stent” to complete the treatment in just 30 minutes. Patients are hospitalized for only 3-4 days or can even get a one-day treatment.

(3) Physicians used to give craniotomy for surgical clipping to patients with brain aneurysm. Today, platinum coils are pushed into the aneurysm through a catheter inserted from a patient’s thigh. This new method has halved the treatment time and shortened the period of hospitalization to just 3-4 days.

(4) Diagnostic devices have also undergone major development. We have high accuracy devices that cause almost no pain, including MRI and CT. Endoscopes can be used for both diagnosis and treatment with much less burden to patients.

 Thanks to these developments, our physicians and manufacturing technologies of medical devices are at the world’s top level. But the medical level of Japan as a whole lags behind.
○ Japan has always had an import excess for medical devices, mainly because screening for new devices takes a long time. (As for Fiscal Year 2012, our import excess totaled 700 billion yen.) While it takes on average 8 months in the US, we need 25 months in Japan. We must also go through an extensive application procedure. Even if we develop the latest device in the world, foreign-made devices can outpace ours. As a matter of fact, 20 advanced medical devices out of the 100 world’s top selling devices have not yet been approved in our country.

○ Cultural differences are also playing a major role. While the US culture encourages making new challenges, the Japanese culture puts priority on safety that entails a time-consuming screening procedure.

 Another factor is the Japanese Pharmaceutical Affairs Act that has long regulated both medical devices and pharmaceutical products that are very different in nature. Unlike medicines, medical devices can be improved at clinical sites, but they require much training to master how to operate. It was only last November that the Act was amended to have separate clauses for medical devices, but detailed regulations are yet to be stipulated.

 Before closing, let me make some personal suggestions. Our medical expenses exceed 40 trillion yen today and it will keep growing as our country keeps aging. I must say because Japan has the world’s best universal health insurance coverage, the Japanese people might be paying less attention on disease prevention.

 We can learn from Scandinavian countries like Sweden and Denmark, where the whole system in the country makes you move your body, based on the understanding that “you will get sick unless you do physical exercise.” For example, there are no escalators at stations, no caddies at golf courses, sports clubs are accessible to everyone, the elderly are regarded to be active members of society and there are no homes for the elderly. Consequently, there are very few bedridden senior citizens and their per capita medical expenses are very small.

 As we will be hosting the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, we should take this opportunity to shift our mindset from therapy to prevention. Let me call upon you to be the forerunner and encourage people across Japan to do more physical exercise.

Initiation Speech
Forests of the World

September 9, 2014

Mr. Ryu Yano
Chairman, Sumitomo Forestry Co., Ltd.

 Modern civilization has triggered global warming by consuming a massive amount of fossil fuels and logging forests since the Industrial Revolution. Japan has developed as a country with a culture that respects coexistence between nature and humans from ancient times. The Sumitomo Forestry Co. Ltd. owns one-900th of the mountains and forests across Japan and has protected forests and conserved nature over 320 years since its foundation in 1691. Looking back into history, the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia and Indus started where there were forests and declined when forests disappeared. We try to learn from history so that our modern civilization won’t repeat the mistakes of ancient civilizations. We also try to build a sustainable society through forest preservation.

 Forests have many beneficial functions. Besides producing trees, they 1) absorb and lock up carbon dioxide, 2) maintain bio-diversity, 3) protect water sources, 4) prevent landslides and 5) give recreation. As trees absorb and lock up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, building wooden houses and schools leads to “afforesting the cities.”

 It is generally believed that trees burn easily, but wooden columns get carbonized only on the surface and do not burn out. Steel columns, on the other hand, melt and bend by heat, so we can say wooden columns excel in fire resistance and durability. Data indicates that a mouse kept in a wooden box lives longer than a mouse in a steel box. Experiment results also show that children get high immunity against illness and feel emotionally stable in wooden buildings. Wood is an excellent human-friendly material and we now see many public facilities using wood for interior decoration. The government enacted the “Act for Promotion of Use of Wood in Public Buildings etc” in 2010 and we expect more wooden buildings to be built.

 Forests cover about 4 billion hectares of the world’s land area which totals 13 billion hectares. If we look at the proportion of forested land against national land, Japan ranks the third with 68.5% after Finland and Sweden. The figure for other major countries are 33.2% for the USA, 31.7% for Germany, 28.3% for France, 22.8% for India, 21.2% for China and 11.8% for the UK. We can see Japan is one of the world’s leading forest countries.

 The national land of Japan is 37.79 million hectares and our forests cover totals 25.12 million hectares, of which artificial forests with cedar and cypress total 10 million hectares. A total amount of 4.9 billion cubic meters of timber are stored in Japanese mountains, of which artificial forests store 3.04 billion cubic meters of timber worth 43 years of consumption in theory. The reality shows, however, that our wood self-sufficiency rate was only 27.9% in 2012. In order to make timber internationally competitive, 1) stable product quality, 2) stable price and 3) stable supply are vital. Unfortunately, our domestic timber has failed to meet these requirements. The government plans to implement different policies to raise our self-sufficiency rate to above 50% by 2020.

 I always tell my staff members that “once we identify problems, all we need to do is to come up with solutions, make a timetable and start moving.” We have gone through extensive discussions and already know the problems and solutions that surround the Japanese forestry. We must now move forward in close collaboration between the public and private sectors to implement some concrete measures. I believe we can make forestry one of the growth industries by increasing timber exports. It will create jobs in depopulating areas and contribute to regenerate the whole area by the flow of funds. By reforming the forestry industry to attract ambitious young people with innovative ideas, I am sure we can make local communities more active and eventually revive Japan as a whole. Please look ahead to the brighter future of the Japanese forestry.