Japan faces flu medicine ‘shortage’ as case surge leads to closure of thousands of schools

Representational image: People walk past shops in Togoshi Ginza, one of the longest shopping streets in the capital Tokyo, on 8 May 2023 (AFP via Getty Images)
Representational image: People walk past shops in Togoshi Ginza, one of the longest shopping streets in the capital Tokyo, on 8 May 2023 (AFP via Getty Images)

Japan is observing a serious shortage of generic flu medicine amid the spread of influenza and Covid-19, finds a report.

The number of flu cases per medical institution in Japan exceeded the warning level earlier this week, reported The Japan Times.

The health ministry, which collects flu reports from about 5,000 medical institutions nationwide, predicted a possibility of a major flu outbreak within a month.

With the announcement on Sunday, the ministry is now scrambling to sort out structural issues affecting the drug industry that has led to a shortage of generic medication in the country.

The country has shut down 10 generic drugmakers since 2021 due to quality issues, said the ministry, according to The Japan Times. The Covid pandemic and the spread of influenza further led to a shortage of supply, reported the outlet.

The supply of cough medications has gone down by 15 per cent, said the ministry. This comes as the country increased the warning level for flu and closed or partially closed a total of 1,772 schools.

The spread of flu in the season is also a cause of concern because it usually spreads in winter.

“Several factors are believed to have played a role in the current spread of the flu, including a decline in immunity as (the flu) had not spread for a long time, and an increase in travel between Japan and overseas,” a health ministry official was quoted as saying by the outlet.

The official advised residents to continue efforts to prevent infection as they did for Covid.