Then good news, the bad news, and the hospital

Posted on 06.02.2014


Copaxone2Remember all those times that I bitched about the bruising that comes with daily Copaxone injections? Remember how I was bitching about taking tons of pills each day? Well, in the end I decided I like swallowing better than bruising (and ‘Gina in summer who wears bikinis’ agrees), but I guess any of my boyfriends could have told you that, even though bruising happens sometimes, too…

So here I am in lovely Nihon, with excellent public health care (really, why go back to the US when you have a pre-existing condition, when the rest of the world is happy to treat you?), and I got in to see a new neurologist last week on my day off. It was a super fun way to spend my day off, but I got to see the neuro, so ok!

43747-hi-closeMy new neuro (if he chooses to keep me) doesn’t speak a TON of English, and I had a friend with me to do most of the speaking… but he informed me that Copaxone isn’t in Japan. I was ok with this, since I have been bitching about daily injections and have been considering switching to Gilenya, even though it’s another pill I’d have to take. When I asked him about Gilenya, he said  it was available and that he could help me switch. Awesome! The good news: you get to switch to a pill!

There’s only one catch: You’re a foreigner, new to the country, and this is a drug switch. Here in Japan, when patients switch drugs, we need to put them under surveillance. Why? Because one time, someone had really bad side effects from something and died. It is apparently some kind of universally known fact that the drugs in Nihon are notoriously weak, and that Japanese people don’t handle the western super strong drugs (or any drugs) very well… Side effects seem to be a serious problem for a lot of people here. I will have to do a LOT more research on this one.

Also, apparently once, a foreigner came and said he had HIV and got really great meds… and was selling them. So they kind of feel the need to make sure I actually have MS, since Gilenya might be hot on the black market…?

The bad news: you have to lay around in a hospital, bored out of your mind for 3 days under observation to get your new meds, to make sure you really have this disease and don’t die of a side effect. Oh, and this involuntary/voluntary stay’ll cost you at least $350, which you must pay before you exit through the gift shop.

Most MS cases in Japan don’t look like mine. Apparently in Japan, more people have optic issues, rather than motion issues. So I might be an interesting case for this (highly rated, quite popular) neurologist. I guess we’ll see.

So, it is on to hospital in country number 4 for me next week. I guess compared to hospital stays in the US, $350 for 3 days is practically free. I just hope they have wifi.

I should start a blog for this. Trying out hospitals and health care in other countries. So far, England is winning, but Germany wasn’t bad, either. And they let me tie my tube, so they get bonus points for listening to the patient and not putting politics before my wishes.

Posted in: health, Japan, life, medical, MS