Oct 5, 2018

Prescription medicine in Japan

In Japan when your doctor prescribes you medicine you take the prescription and pick up the medicine at the pharmacy. The will only give you the number of the pills prescribed in a small paper bag without any packaging or the leaflet that usually comes with medicine and unfortunately most doctors do not inform their patients about possible side effects and interaction with other medication. 

I was recently prescribed medication for my back pain and when I took it my blood pressure dropped to such a low level that I couldn't get out of bed for a whole day. When I looked it up online I found that women on oral contraception are not supposed to take this medication because the drop in blood pressure is a very common side effect. Unfortunately, my doctor failed to inform me about that even though he knew I was taking the pill. 

If you ever get prescription medicine in Japan, I would recommend researching it online and checking for possible side effects and other issues that might come up, before taking it. Most of the time, somewhere on the medicine's information sheet the English name is mentioned so you can search for further information in English or other languages.

When you get prescription medicines in Japan for the first time, you will receive a small notebook called a "Kusuri Techo". Every time you receive new medicine you are supposed to hand it to the pharmacist, together with your prescription, and they will put a small sticker with some information on the drug in the notebook. This way you can keep track of things easier and also the pharmacists can check for possible drug interactions when you get new prescriptions. In general, this sounds like a good system if you only take Japanese drugs.

Prescription medicine in Japan photo

My somewhat messy looking Kusuri Techo

As a foreigner, especially if you are only in Japan for a limited time, you might have some medicine that you brought with you from your home country. Obviously, that will not be mentioned in your techo, so it is important to inform your doctor and pharmacists about it. However, there is some medicine that is available overseas but not in Japan so Japanese doctors might not be very familiar with it. 

Therefore I would still recommend checking every prescription medicine before taking it. In my experience, Japanese doctors love to prescribe all sorts of medicine but most of the time they fail to properly educate their patients about it.



Hi, I’m Eli. I’m from Germany and moved to Japan a few years ago. I am a typical nerd and like collecting Pokémon merchandise.Follow me on twitter (@hannari_eri) for the latest nerd News from Tokyo. I also write a blog in German over here. https://lifeinjapanisstrange.wordpress.com/