Japan: doesn’t do injections, doesn’t do generics

Posted on 28.08.2014


It all makes so much sense now. I had a student the other day who works in the pharmaceutical industry, and they told me that they’re currently working to try to get Japan to approve generic drugs.

CopaxoneWe got into a talk then, about drugs in Japan. I told her that when I came here, I told my neurologist that I used Copaxone, which is a daily injection. As I said in a previous post (or many), I was already considering switching to the ‘MS pills’, since they’d been approved and had been in use in the states already for a while. I was actually a little shocked when he told me that Copaxone isn’t a drug they use here.

At first, I took it to mean that because Japanese people apparently don’t  have ‘the same’ type of MS that we are used to seeing in the states (if you knew my mother, think of her version of the disease, rather than mine), they might not need the same types of strong-ish meds we used over there.

Gilenya-0.5-mg-cap6002PPS0My student told me that due to social healthcare, Japan tends to shy away from injectable medications because they’re too expensive and a bit wasteful (says the country who wraps each pastry in its own bag before putting them all into another bag). This makes sense, since my doctor could ONLY prescribe me Gilenya (known in Japan as Imusera).

I then told her about my Gyno prescribing me a different  BC pill than I’d used successfully for the past 13 years. I told her that my original pill had gone generic almost a decade ago, and she said that for the most part, Japanese doctors don’t prescribe generics. Generics, she said, are actually available, but since the doctors here are like doctors in the US and get paid by drug companies to prescribe their products, and also because consumers trust brand names over non-brand names, you have to actually go to the city/ward office and get a special card that says ‘please prescribe generics’.

Generics are much cheaper, but not always subsidized by the government health care agency. So they’re cheap, but not ‘covered’. Brand name drugs, however, are covered and subsidized.

It actually makes a LOT of sense now.