Healthcare in Japan (part one – medication)
In my three years in Japan, I have been to the doctor more times than the rest of my life combined. I have found myself to be rather accident-prone and illness-catching (except for this year’s influenza?..I hope). As a result, I have become very, very familiar with the Japanese healthcare system. Healthcare here is different to back home (with it being a different country and all).
I find doctors are very quick to give prescriptions and treatment here. I once ducked to a local doctor because I had nausea. It wasn’t severe, and if I didn’t need to go to one (or buy medicine) for sick leave, I would have simply stayed at home and rested. The doctor palpated my stomach, gave me x-rays, decided it was a simple stomach bug, and sent me home with three diferent types of medication If I have the slightest sniffle at work, it is guarenteed that someone will ask me if I’m taking medication. Antibiotics are very, very commonly used here.
On the other hand, over the counter medication is very weak. My mother, who used to work as a midwife, was astounded to find 60mg doses of paracetemol (midwives in NZ have prescribing rights, so she knows her painkillers). Ibuprofen tends to be in really small doses as well, and the “strong” type is still only 75% of the dose of a regular nurofen or advil. So, whilst medication is very popular, people tend to use smaller doses more often. When prescribed it can be a bit of both worlds – I have been given very weak doses and very strong ones, depending on the doctor.
A lot of medication isn’t approved for use here. This isn’t unique to Japan. In researching my medications for when I leave Japan, I have found certain ones I use are not approved in Nz or the USA – I guess simply one of the factors of living between countries. Pseudoephedrine is illegal here, for example, which can be really frustrating when you have a cold and want something to help you power through the day.
Anyway, that’s my ramble on medicine in Japan.