Japan’s high-cost of medical treatment

When NHK’s in-depth news program, "Closeup Gendai," addresses a pressing social issue, it usually offers possible solutions articulated by experts. Two weeks ago, however, the show covered a problem that seems to have no solution. The subject of the opening segment was a middle-aged man who was diagnosed with leukemia 10 years ago. His doctor estimated he had four or five years left to live. Then the anti-cancer drug Glivec was approved by the health ministry. Glivec attacks cancerous cells without destroying healthy cells. It is not a cure, but rather a treatment that prevents the leukemia from worsening.

Glivec is expensive. One pill costs ¥3,128, and a patient needs to take four a day. That adds up to over ¥4.5 million a year. Since Glivec is covered by national health insurance, the patient would pay 30 percent, or around ¥1.35 million a year, but the government also subsidizes approved treatment that is deemed too expensive for some people. Under this kogaku iryo seido (high-cost medical system), the man’s out-of-pocket payments for Glivec was reduced to ¥500,000 a year.

Read the rest of the story: The bitter pill of Japan’s high-cost medical treatment.

Chiba clinic chief facing charges for coffee enemas without a license

Seduction in Japan often starts with a male inviting a female to join him for a perfectly legal cup of java. But using coffee to purge patients’ bowels has landed the operator of a defunct Chiba clinic and two other individuals in the pokey, Sankei Sports (Dec. 4) reports.

When a 14-year-old middle school girl complaining of constipation came for a consultation, Chikayoshi Hishiki, age 55, arranged for her to be administered a coffee enema, which, he told her, would “clean out” her intestines.

Sankei Sports did not go into detail on the identity of the stool pigeon who reported Hishiki to the authorities. He faces charges of practicing medicine without a license. He is alleged to have performed the treatment on a total of six patients, including two females in their 70s.

Hishiki insists that nothing untoward occurred. He admits that while he helped the patients prepare for the enema and assisted in the cleanup afterwards, the patients administered the enemas to themselves.

While the coffee — presumably served at less than body temperature — was said to have no ill effects on those who ingested it in this manner, the police are looking at charging Hishiki with other possible violations.

From 2009 to July of this year, his two Chiba clinics are said to have consulted some 5,000 patients, from whom he raked in revenues of 40 million yen.

Coffee enemas are said to be popular with Hollywood starlets and supermodels, who believe them to be effective in flushing toxins from the intestines and relieving fecal impaction. The article reports that in Japan, many women have also recently begun to show interest via sites on the Web. (K.S.)