If you’re looking to get your hands on an epiPen in Japan – yes, they are available by prescription. The below info is from recent personal experience (August 2017).
Generally, they should be available at any decent medical health clinic or hospital. Note however, that only certain doctors prescribe it, namely skin specialists (dermatologists), and possibly also allergy specialists.
I previously received my first epipen through Marunouchi Clinic but when I tried to renew my epipen recently, they refused to do so. Long story, the facts of which seemed suspicious to, but in the end they refused or were unable to issue me with a new epipen due to my old one having expired. So I needed to find a new clinic that would.
I ultimately got an epipen really cheaply through Tokyo Business Clinic which offers services in English.
I called the clinic in advance saying that I needed to renew my epipen. They basically said to come into the clinic to consult with a doctor.
Arrived at the Doctor’s clinic. Fill out health condition form. Considering I was not actually sick, most of the form was left blank.
I then saw the skin doctor, who was prepared for the fact that I was there for an epiPen (because I had called the clinic in advance).
She had an epiPen picture brochure and the doctor explained and walked through the epiPen – when to use it, how to use it etc. The doctor will ask why you need it, what kind of allergy etc. I also had to sit through a DVD explaining how to use an epipen.
Essentially they need you to understand when and how to use it as it is a self-administered injection.
You’ll also need to sign a questionnaire/consent form to ensure that you understand the use and the risks of the epi-Pen. You will get a copy of this consent form.
All up, it took about 20minutes by the time I watched the DVD and answered a few general questions. And yes they speak some basic English although Japanese language knowledge is helpful to make the process go more smoother.
The doctor was satisfied and would write a prescription.
I waited back out in reception for about 20 minutes whilst they did paperwork etc.
I had to pay for the consultation fee and the epipen in advance. However, you generally will need to wait 3-5 days to get the epipen and you’ll need to come back to pick it up. For some reason, this clinic doesn’t do same day prescriptions for epipens, although Marunouchi Clinic used to be able to do same day, although they now apparently don’t dispense epipens but I am a bit suspicious as to the validity of this.
The charge for the epipen renewal was only about 7,800yen which I thought was really cheap. I got the paperwork and receipt for it and was told they would call me once it was ready for pick up in a few days time.
But I’m pretty sure that any decent medical clinic or hospital that has a skin specialist will be able to prescribe one eg Midtown clinic in Roppongi should also be able to prescribe EpiPens (but you might be referred to the skin clinic department).
If you can’t read Japanese though, I highly, highly recommend that you Youtube and watch a video online on how to use the epiPen, because all the instructions in the kit and on the epiPen are written in Japanese.
I recommend also writing out English instructions in the kit, just in case someone who doesn’t read Japanese has to administer you the injection (eg when traveling etc), although it should be self-injected where possible.
The epiPen is usually only effective for 1-2 years. The expiry date will be written on the pen, and there is also a registration postcard which you should fill in and post back. They will they send you reminders when you should update the prescription.
How to use the epiPen:
The epiPen is encased in a safety tube. Remove the yellow lid.
Take out epiPen.
Remove the grey cap.
Hold the pen with whole fist.
Swing/insert/inject the black tip into the thigh, – swing firmly for around 10 seconds until you hear a click sound. No need to press anything, just swing and inject into thigh. Bare skin is fine. It can also pierce through light clothing, but remove clothing where possible.
An epiPen is only an interim measure for anaphylaxis, and not a cure for any allergic reaction, so an ambulance should be called.
Another way to get one in Tokyo – the easier but more expensive way – easier in the sense that you can do the whole process in English, and not have to do it Japanese is go through the National Medical Clinic in Tokyo. They are an English-speaking/International private clinic that serves a lot of foreigners/expats and their families in Japan. They are located in Hiroo. They have English, and Japanese speaking staff. It’s possible they have staff that also speak other languages as well.
So I called them first and the phone was answered in English. No need to fumble my way in Japanese.
I asked whether they have a doctor that can prescribe an EpiPen. And they said yes – only on certain days when that particular doctor was in.
They were very upfront about the expense involved.
If you’ve never been to that clinic (that is, not a regular patient with them), you will need to pay:
- the first-time consultation free (first-time consultation is always a premium fee – common with most clinics in Japan);
- the actual consultation fee; and
- then the epiPen itself.
I was told the total would be approx. 25,000yen total (note prices subject to change).
I was told that I could possibly get it cheaper from a (public) hospital and was advised to check around although she had no idea what other places would charge for it.
I was told that if I wanted to book an appointment over the phone and order the epi-Pen through the National Medical clinc, that once booked, I would not be able to cancel. I would have to pay for the epiPen whether I turned up to the appointment or not. I decided to check with other clinics. I was sure that I could find an epiPen elsewhere for cheaper.
At the National Medical Centre, once they have prescribed one for you, they will do repeat prescriptions without the charge for subsequent consultations. Please note that I have never used the services of the National Medical Centre so cannot speak from experience.