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J Am Pharm Assoc (2003). 2003 Jul-Aug;43(4):519-26.

Comparison of prescription reimbursement methodologies in Japan and the United States.

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Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Kobe Gakuin University, Nishi-ku, Kobe, Japan.



To compare methods of prescription reimbursement in Japan and the United States.


Data were obtained through interviews and a search of the pharmacy literature using MEDLINE, International Pharmaceutical Abstracts, the Iowa Drug Information Service, and the Internet. Search terms were pharmacy, dispensing fee, reimbursement, prescriptions, Japan, United States, and average wholesale price (AWP). A comprehensive search was done (i.e., no year limits were observed).


Performed manually by the authors.


The reimbursement systems for prescriptions differ widely between Japan and the United States. The reimbursement system in the United States is fairly straightforward and easy to understand; it is generally based on product cost (e.g., AWP minus a percentage) plus a small dispensing fee. The system in Japan is extremely complex. Reimbursement formulae have four components, including fees for professional dispensing, drug cost, counseling and administration, and medication supplies and devices. Additionally, various adjustments to the final amount are made based on dosage form, length of therapy, number of prescriptions dispensed by the pharmacy per month, and when the prescription is filled (e.g., after hours, on Sundays or holidays). In Japan, each pharmacist is limited to filling 40 prescriptions per day, but each "prescription" can involve several medication orders, making it difficult to compare Japanese pharmacists' workloads with those of their counterparts in the United States. In addition, Japanese pharmacists are provided remuneration for providing various cognitive services, such as taking a patient history, counseling a patient, consulting with a physician, and identifying drug-related problems.


Japan and the United States have very different methods of reimbursing pharmacists for dispensing prescriptions, each with positive and negative features. Based on the features of pharmacy reimbursement systems in each country, perhaps the optimal pharmacy practice system would have workload limits that reflect safety standards and amount of support staff available, provide a fair and standardized method for determining drug cost, are relatively straightforward, pay for cognitive services, and provide care for all of citizens through of some type of national health care system.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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