Tokyo Government to Provide Health Food Information to Medical Community

The Government of Tokyo has lately been investigating how medical organizations, pharmacies, and drug stores are dealing with “health foods”, and has now revealed that it is planning to start releasing information on use and effectiveness of health foods to doctors. Tokyo has been the strictest prefecture in Japan regulating businesses which violate the Pharmaceutical Affairs Law. However, recognizing the usefulness of health foods, the government is now looking for a way to advise doctors on “how to use” these products, a dramatic policy shift from past approaches. A survey of medical experts conducted from the end of last year to the beginning of this year indicated that these professionals were seeking information on efficacy of health foods as well as their adverse effects. The survey was conducted among 100 doctors and 400 pharmacists working at giant hospitals, 500 practitioners, and 100 pharmacists in pharmacies, and asked about their concerns in health foods, their experiences of adverse events, their opinions on the roles of medical professionals concerning health foods, etc. The survey aimed to collect about 500 responses, and interviews are currently being carried out. The prefecture so far has set up a Special Committee on Health Foods from the point of view of consumer safety, and discussed various options. At the same time, the government is considering the need for sharing the data on effectiveness of health foods, recognizing that more consumers are showing interest in alternative medicine and using supplements and health foods at hospitals, and that more doctors are demanding information on these products. The responses have so far confirmed these needs. The Health and Safety section of the Health and Safety Office in Tokyo Bureau of Social Welfare and Public Health, which supervises the Special Committee, has commented that they “recognize the rising interest in health foods. The Tokyo Prefecture needs to provide information on how to use the health foods as well as how to regulate them.” Moreover, they pointed out that for some product important evidence such as research data on drug interactions is available. They stated that they are “planning a policy through the Special Committee in cooperation with doctors.” An interim report of the result of the questionnaire survey was presented at “the Fourth Special Committee on Health Foods” on March 23. The final results are to be reported by the committee in the middle of May, at the same time as specific plans for information sharing with doctors.

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