Video prescriptions, advice, on the cards for hard-pressed patients in Japan

Older patients and those who suffer from chronic diseases or live in far-flung locales in Japan may soon be allowed to get or renew prescription drugs through video calls, Nikkei Asian Review said, cracking open a door into online medicine so far largely shut by opposition from brick-and-mortar businesses.

Japanese medical associations have thwarted full online drug sales in the country by lobbying for stringent rules on dispensing, including keeping in place a requirement for face-to-face visits to a doctor to obtain a prescription and then a pharmacy to pick up medication, Nikkei reports.

But with an aging population and rising healthcare costs, the practical aspects of allowing sufferers of high blood pressure and other chronic conditions to avoid visiting a doctor every time they need a prescription refill or those in outlying areas appears to be gaining favor.

The initial move to ease the restrictions on so-called telemedicine may start in special economic zones, Nikkei said, adding that if it works in limited areas, the government will consider using it nationwide.

Special economic zones include the Tokyo designated zone, which now covers 9 wards of the world's most populous city, Nikkei said.

The zones are part of policies to boost Tokyo's competitiveness as a global city.

- here's the story from Nikkei