Tokyo Pharmacies Grapple with Persistent Drug Shortages

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Tokyo Pharmacies Grapple with Persistent Drug Shortages

Pharmacies in Tokyo are experiencing ongoing drug shortages, particularly for cough suppressants and expectorants. Despite government efforts to boost production, these medications remain scarce. Pharmacist Masao Takahashi expresses concerns about dwindling inventories and the uncertainty of supply.

Takahashi's pharmacy stocks only a few types of cough suppressants and expectorants, leaving patients with limited options. He often resorts to contacting doctors for alternative medications and personally delivers additional drugs to patients when necessary. The supply chain is also unstable, with different manufacturers delivering drugs on a weekly basis.

These shortages have a direct impact on patients. Some prefer to wait for a specific medication rather than switch brands or seek it elsewhere. Takahashi, as the chairman of the Tokyo Pharmaceutical Association, has received similar reports from member pharmacists. He believes that overall supply needs to increase significantly to alleviate the problem, which could take several years to resolve.

The Ministry of Health has acknowledged the unmet demand and plans to expedite subsidies to drugmakers. They are also considering revising drug prices to incentivize production. As of December 2022, nearly 26% of drugs on the national health insurance list were facing supply issues, with generic medications accounting for a significant portion.