Lack of Diabetes Supplies in Japan: An Exclusive Report from Noriko Kitano


The number of diabetics in Japan is estimated at over eight million, with millions more suffering from impaired glucose tolerance, or prediabetes.  The Japan Diabetes Society says that after last week’s devastating earthquake and tsunami in north-east Japan, there are 400-500 survivors with type 1 diabetes in the stricken area.

Currently, The Japan Association for Diabetes Education and Care, Japan Diabetes Society, and pharmaceutical companies are working together to try to ensure stable product supply and distribution to patients in the following areas: Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima, and the Ibaragi prefectures. Each prefecture has two or three hospitals where the patients can seek help for their condition.

Additionally, the pharmaceutical companies Novo Nordisk, Sanofi Aventis and Japan Lilly have set up emergency phone lines for the survivors.  According to a press release, the production line and the delivery of supplies from those pharmaceutical companies were not affected by either the quake or the tsunami, allowing them to provide the number of insulin products as usual. The question, however, is about access, about actually getting the medication to the patients.   Because of damaged infrastructure, it’s difficult to deliver the supplies such as insulin, cotton and needles on the ground.  The Japan Diabetes Society has asked Ministry of Defense if the helicopters belonging to Japan’s Self-Defense Forces can carry diabetes supplies among other important goods. According to the emergency medical care doctor, Dr. Nagata, who was in the Fukushima prefecture where the nuclear plant complex is located, “many people just fled without taking medicine and they are in great need of it.” He added, “The shortage of medicine, not only for diabetes, but for all in the shelters is serious.”  He also explained that lack of petrol made it difficult for him to visit far-flung areas.  He was sorry that he could not make all rounds, since it’s not only lack of medicine that’s a problem, but a critical shortage of medical specialists on site.

News reports about the plight of diabetics and other chronically ill patients are trickling in, however there is still little information.  A recent report says blood glucose monitors are among the supplies being delivered to shelters.  This morning, however, CNN reported a lack of medication for diabetics and those suffering from blood pressure problems.  The newspaper Kahoku Shinpo reported on a survivor whose husband is diabetic and is having difficulty walking.  She wanted to ask for help, but could not because she knew everyone in the shelter needed help.

You can donate here to assist diabetics in Japan:

Japan Association for Diabetes Education and Care (Nihon Tonyobyo Kyokai) Donation for East-Japan Earthquake Disaster (Higashi Nihon Daishinsai Gienkin) JP Bank (You-cho Ginko, Bank Code: 9900)
Account# 00170-4-15463

Noriko Kitano is a Tokyo-based freelance journalist, writing mostly about travel and lifestyle. She studied print and online journalism at Emerson College, Boston.  She is the author of “Romania- cultura, arta, spiritualitate” and “Cherished designs and memories of Bulgaria and Romania.”  When she is not writing, she enjoys cooking, playing the piano,and jogging with her pug in the park.

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Agustin Nuñez
Agustin Nuñez
12 years ago

Please receive all our solidarity for what you are living after the earthquake and the tsunami. We want to involve our community in Mexico (related to type I diabetes) in helping. HOW can we help?

Lindsey Guerin
Lindsey Guerin
12 years ago

Maybe I am missing it, but is there a link or direct way to donate? I have been searching to give since the US got the news but can’t find anyone.

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