Characteristics and Distribution of Scholarship Donations From Pharmaceutical Companies to Japanese Healthcare Institutions in 2017: A Cross-sectional Analysis

Document Type : Original Article


1 Tohoku University School of Medicine, Sendai, Japan

2 Medical Governance Research Institute, Tokyo, Japan

3 Department of Internal Medicine, Soma Central Hospital, Soma, Japan

4 Department of Internal Medicine, Navitas Clinic Kawasaki, Kawasaki, Japan

5 Department of Social and Policy Sciences, University of Bath, Bath, UK

6 Department of Breast and Thyroid Surgery, Jyoban Hospital of Tokiwa Foundation, Iwaki, Japan


Financial relationships between healthcare institutions and pharmaceutical companies can lead to conflicts of interest (COIs), potentially compromising patients’ care. In Japan, scholarship donations, unique type of payments made to healthcare institutions and their subunits by pharmaceutical industries without restricting their use including non-educational or research purpose, may often have implicit promotional purposes. However, detailed information about these payments remains scarce.

This study employed a cross-sectional design to analyse the extent and distribution of all scholarship donations made by all 73 pharmaceutical companies belonging to the Japan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (JPMA) to healthcare institutions in 2017. Data were obtained from publicly available sources from the companies, and the total
number of payments, their distributions across various institutions and specialties were analysed.

A total of 27 007 payment contracts amounting to $178 703 721 in scholarship donations were made to 4839 specific departments and laboratories at 251 different institutions by 67 pharmaceutical companies. National universities received 50.8% of total payments. All universities setting medical school in Japan received one or more payments. Domestic pharmaceutical companies contributed to $137 797 302 (77.1%) in total. Clinical medicine departments received 89.6% ($160 113 147) with 6.2% ($11 011 946) and 2.0% ($3 600 456) allocated to basic medicine and social medicine specialties, respectively.

This study provided a comprehensive overview of scholarship donations from pharmaceutical companies to healthcare institutions in Japan, revealing significant financial support primarily directed to national universities and clinical medicine departments. Japanese policy-makers should consider implementing regulations that promote transparency and mitigate potential COIs arising from scholarship donations, which may be useful in other countries with similar schemes.


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  • Receive Date: 16 August 2022
  • Revise Date: 17 July 2023
  • Accept Date: 31 July 2023
  • First Publish Date: 05 August 2023