Mar 17, 2019

Prescription validity - a comparison between Japan and Australia

One thing I've had to get used to here in Japan are the validity differences in prescriptions compared to what I'm used to back home. If you attend a doctor's office in Australia, your prescription is generally valid for a period of 6 to 12 months, depending on the state or territory you're based in. This to me makes logical sense, since it's not always feasible to pop into a pharmacy and wait for a script to be filled on the same day of your appointment. In Japan, where medical appointments routinely take longer than what I'm used to back home, that additional wait can be even harder to justify if it's not urgent.

Prescription validity - a comparison between Japan and Australia photo

Japan's tiny prescription window validity

In Japan though, my family and I have run into issues where we've attended a doctor's clinic or hospital and been provided with a prescription that wasn't urgent for us to pick up. The issue here is that if you don't fill your prescription within four days, the pharmacist has to call the doctor's clinic or hospital to confirm that they are okay to still issue the medication.

That's quite a different time frame when you're used to a 6 to 12 month window!

The finer details of the four day prescription validity window

Bear in mind that this four-day period starts from the day that you get assigned the prescription. For instance, we were given a script for our daughter's asthma medication on the 19th. We still had some of the medication at home, so we waited until the 23rd (a Saturday, and a little more convenient for errands for our family) to pop into the pharmacy and fill the prescription. We were told that the four day window commences on the day that you get handed the prescription (19th, 20th, 21st, 22nd), so we were a day late, even though we assumed that since our appointment was late in the day on the 19th that we'd have until the same time on the 23rd to pick it up - a more "by the hour" 4 day window.

Not so!

Hopefully if you're new to doctor's appointments and filling prescriptions here in Japan this will help you out and ultimately save you some time. Our hospital has several pharmacists nearby, and they also have automated machines where you can fax your script through to your preferred local pharmacist so it's ready to go. I'm going to ensure I do this in the future, so that I don't miss the window and end up inconveniencing myself further.



After spending the last several years in the beating heart of Tokyo, I will be spending the next three in the countryside of Japan. I adore this country and all it has to offer - and I'm always learning more and more about life here as I go along!