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Japan’s government to allow sales of almost all non-prescription drugs over the internet

The Japanese government has formally made adjustment in order to allow more than 99% of the country’s over-the-counter (OTC) medicines to be sold over the internet. While this sales method was previously banned, a ruling by the Supreme Court in January of this year labelled the act as unlawful. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is planning to announce the official lifting of the ban later this week in Tokyo.

Japan categorizes its OTC drugs into three categories based on the risks of side effects. Type 1 drugs, which include anti-allergy and gastrointestinal drugs, are considered to have high risk; type 2 drugs are those that are used to treat pain and lower fevers; while drugs that impose little or no risk, like vitamins, are labelled as type 3. Before now, online sales of type 1 and type 2 medications was banned due to the Health Ministry feeling that consumers needed to speak to a pharmacist in person when making a purchase.

Out of all of Japan’s OTC drugs, there are roughly 100 labelled as type 1, around 8,300 type 2, and about 3,000 in the type 3 category. The only medicines that will continue to be restricted from online sales are the handful of type 1 drugs that have the greatest risks in terms of side effects. While Prime Minister Abe and much of his Liberal Democratic Party are in favor of lifting the online sales ban, many from the various doctor and pharmacist federations remain opposed to the change.