The Integration of Traditional Medicine with Conventional Biomedicine: A Narrative Review of the Japanese Perspective

Author: Tetsuhiro Yoshino1, Akihiko Kashio2, Yoshihiro Terasawa3, Marina Hachiki4, Ryo Yoshinaga5,6, Ryutaro Arita1,7,8
1 Center for Kampo Medicine, Keio University School of Medicine, Shinjuku-ku, Japan.
2 Kyuden Family Clinic, Setagaya-ku, Japan.
3 Department of General Internal Medicine, Kuchinotsu Hospital, Minamishimabara, Japan.
4 General Medicine, Dokkyo University Hospital, Shimotsuga-gun, Japan.
5 Department of Japanese Oriental (Kampo) Medicine, Iizuka Hospital, Iizuka-shi, Japan.
6 Department of General Internal Medicine, Kyushu University Hospital, Fukuoka, Japan.
7 Department of Kampo and Integrative Medicine, Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine, Sendai, Japan.
8 Department of Education and Support for Regional Medicine, Department of Kampo Medicine, Tohoku University Hospital, Sendai, Japan.
Conference/Journal: J Integr Complement Med
Date published: 2023 Mar 24
Other: Special Notes: doi: 10.1089/jicm.2022.0643. , Word Count: 261

Objectives: This is a narrative review of the integration of traditional medicine with conventional biomedicine in present day Japan, whose aging population is considered one of the largest globally. Design: It is focused on the aging population because this age group most avails of healthcare. We also tried to describe the unique Japanese medical situations, clinical outcome of Japanese traditional medicine (Kampo medicine) which may include acupuncture, and education of Kampo medicine workforce. Results: Conventional schools of medicine in Japan are required to teach Kampo medicine, and most Japanese physicians (>80%) prescribe traditional medicine, especially in primary care settings. The universal national healthcare system covers Kampo medicine prescribed by physicians and treatment by acupuncturists (they sometimes refer patients who may need evaluation by physicians), enhancing access to primary healthcare. Additionally, pharmacists who graduated from conventional schools of pharmacy also select and sell Kampo medicine as over-the-counter (OTC) medication. Kampo medicine available as prescription drugs and OTC is effective, and has been proven to be economically beneficial in several clinical settings. Conclusions: An aging population is a global concern for both developed and developing countries. Japan, having a significantly-large aging population, integrates conventional biomedicine and traditional medicine in its universal national healthcare coverage, through its biomedically-trained physicians and pharmacists who also learned traditional medicine, as well as the acupuncturists. By reviewing the current situation in Japan, the authors hope to introduce the future of the global contribution of traditional, complementary, and integrative medicine in primary care.

Keywords: Kampo medicine; aging society; free health care access; universal health insurance coverage.

PMID: 36961400 DOI: 10.1089/jicm.2022.0643