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Getting Avonex in Japan

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    Getting Avonex in Japan

    For years, I have been saving up the money needed to go to a Japanese language school in Japan. I am currently on Avonex (more specifically, the Avonex Pen) and it's working great, as long as I am on it. I am having trouble finding out how I'm going to get the medication in Japan, and that is holding me back.

    I currently have private insurance, which I pay a buttload for, but it allows me to get the medication. I still can't afford it at that point, so I'm enrolled in an assistance program that pays most of it and I just pay a co-pay. It then goes through an online pharmacy that only ships to places in the US.

    When I'll be in Japan, I'll be required to pay for the Japanese National healthcare, which will help me in case I get hurt, but I doubt it will cover my Avonex. I'll probably have to continue to pay for my private healthcare in the States to pay for the medication.

    Does anyone know anything about getting Avonex in Japan? I tried to write the Japanese MS Society, but I received no response and I don't know who else to ask.

    Is it possible to have someone in the US receive your Avonex shipment and forward it to you in Japan? I'm not sure of the complexities involved in doing so, but it may be worth looking into.

    Avonex has been available in Japan via Biogen with distribution through Genzyme.

    Here is a link to the introduction notice dated 1998 for Avonex in Japan:

    Best of luck learning the Japanese language and getting your meds too.


      I found this after a quick search online:
      Prescription medications can only be mailed by Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) registered entities. Similar regulations may apply to over-the-counter medications.
      Probably not a good idea to have my parents ship them to me. Plus, I prefer to use the prefilled kind of Avonex, which requires refrigeration. That would be extremely expensive to overnight to me in Japan.

      Since making the original post, I found an extensive list of English-speaking doctors in Japan on the US Embassy website. I am going to email one (or more) of them and hope for the best.


        Not surprised about DEA regulations = "complexities".

        I imagine you are not the first person to relocate out side the US with medication needs, so here's hoping you figure it out soon.

        Have you tried contacting Biogen directly?

        Best of luck getting your meds and do keep us posted about the outcome.


          I thought I'd give a little update on what I've found out. A big thank you to MSW1963 for suggesting I contact Biogen Idec. I found on their site that they have a Japanese office, so I contacted them. They have been very helpful, though they said there are laws in Japan that restrict what Pharmaceutical companies can do or say to customers.

          Anyway, here's what I've learned so far:

          * Japan only has the Avonex syringe currently, but is expected to have the Pen sometime next year.
          * A letter from your current doctor and a current prescription is required to get a prescription from a neurologist once in Japan. The letter should confirm you have MS and what medication you are currently on. The letter should also have the contact information of your current doctor.
          * MS is in the category of Specified Rare and Intractable Diseases, so it is covered by the Japanese National Health Insurance. However, there is a 30% co-pay.
          * You can apply to get a Certificate of a Recipient of Designated Disease Treatment, which, if accepted, will provide subsidy for all medical costs, depending on your condition.

          They gave me this website to see for more information on that:

          I already read somewhere that Japan only accepts prescriptions from Japanese doctors, so I knew I had to find a neurologist once I got to Japan. I found a list of English-speaking doctors on the US Embassy website. I found several neurologists located in Fukuoka, Japan (where I was planning on going), but Biogen Idec informed me that none of those doctors prescribe Avonex. So, they are trying to find a doctor that can help me.

          I think I will not be going to Japan in April, as the deadline for applying is coming up and I still have lots of questions. However, I am getting one step closer everyday.


            Glad to hear contacting Biogen was helpful. Hope you are on your way to Japan soon, with meds lined up during your stay. Best of luck.


              I have one question to Isaacthegamer .

              I have the same situation as you. I will go to Japan in next 6 months.
              Could you write me any specific contact to a person in Japan who could help me organize my treatment (Avonex) there ?


                Originally posted by chemik22 View Post
                I have one question to Isaacthegamer .

                I have the same situation as you. I will go to Japan in next 6 months.
                Could you write me any specific contact to a person in Japan who could help me organize my treatment (Avonex) there ?
                I apologize for not replying to you sooner. Hopefully you made it to Japan without problems. I am currently living in Japan as well. I came in October. They have Avonex Pen now, but it is extremely expensive. I am currently working on getting all my documents submitted for the subsidy program. I ran out of the medication I brought with me, but I can hopefully get that taken care of and get back on Avonex by January.

                As for your question, I just wrote the Japanese office of Biogen Idec directly, in both English and Japanese, asking for someone that can help me in English. They found someone for me. The guy that replied helped me out a ton and I am so grateful! Everyone in Japan seems to be very helpful and they try their best, even if they can't understand what I say.

                There are lots of steps to getting medication here. First, you need to get on the National Health Insurance. If you have a year visa, you'll apply for this when you register your address for your residence card. After you get that, then you need a doctor's appointment, specifically one that will prescribe Avonex. (Doctor's only will prescribe specific drugs, so you have to do a little searching. Finding one in my area that not only prescribed Avonex, but also could speak English was my biggest struggle, but Biogen found one for me.) After the doctor's appointment, he/she should give you a paper which allows you to apply for the subsidy program. Then, you need to get the other documents at the city hall and submit them to the health center that oversees where you live. Once that is approved, the doctor will prescribe the medication. The doctor I saw also wants me to do an MRI, because I haven't done one in several years. In the States, it's like $2000 for an MRI. Here it's like $60. I do mind doing an MRI for that price. haha He will schedule that when I see him for the prescription.

                I hope that helps. Living in Japan is one giant adventure, but hopefully everything is working out well for you! One thing I recommend is checking out information about your area and see if there are any places online for people to do language exchanges. A lot of people in Japan want to practice their English, so they will volunteer to help you with your paperwork and all that, just so they can practice. Good luck!