Some pharma products scarce in disaster-damaged Japan

Some drugs and health products are running short in Japan as pharmaceutical factories continue to stand idle or struggle at partial capacity after last month's earthquake and tsunami, the Daily Yomiuri reports. Domestic drugmakers are trying to import alternatives to help boost supplies, but doctors are being asked to help stretch the supplies of scarce meds.

Abbott Laboratories' Japan unit had to halt the supply of Ensure, the nutrition product, because a local factory in Gunma prefecture was damaged. The factory is expected to restart production late next month; in the meantime, the Japanese health ministry has asked the company to find another factory to fill in supply. Only one alternative product is also covered by health insurance.

Aska Pharmaceutical is struggling to deliver Thyradin S (levothryroxine sodium), a thyroid drug that it supplies in Japan almost exclusively. Its factory in Iwaki was so damaged that operations ground to a halt for a couple of weeks, and production is still below capacity. Doctors are asking Japanese officials to help bring in emergency imports of the drug, which is used by an estimated 300,000 patients nationwide. Aska has only enough supply on hand to last about a month, Yomiuri reports.

Finally, Chugai Pharmaceutical sustained damage at plants that turn out the epilepsy drug Rivotril and Parkinson's treatment Madopar. The Japan-based company has supplies on hand to handle short-term demand, however.

- read the Daily Yomiuri coverage