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Recognition in Japan

Mainichi (Japan) June 12, doctor 2009

Chemical sensitivity syndrome will make the list of illnesses used in electronic medical charts and electronic treatment fee claim forms, it has been learned.

The Medical Information System Development Center (MEDIS-DC), an organization affiliated with the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, is planning to make the revision effective Oct. 1.

This marks the first time the government has officially recognized the condition. Whether or not a condition is covered by health insurance is based on this list, and the addition of chemical sensitivity (CS) syndrome is expected to bring relief to the estimated 700,000 people who suffer from the condition and are currently paying treatment expenses.

In May, the Tokyo-based organization Sick House Syndrome Liaison Committee, which had urged the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare to officially recognize CS as a medical condition, was advised by the ministry to submit an application for approval to MEDIS-DC. The committee was contacted by MEDIS-DC on June 1 with news that it planned to add CS to the list on Oct. 1.

Sick house syndrome, which is a type of CS, is already covered by health insurance. However, while sick house syndrome is triggered by indoor air pollution from chemicals such as formaldehyde and toluene, chemicals that are present both indoors and outdoors such as pesticides and cigarette smoke are responsible for the onset of CS. As a result, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry had heretofore, as a general rule, withheld approval of CS for health insurance coverage citing “a lack of unified medical opinion” on the condition.

The list of illnesses is revised four times a year under the supervision of the Japanese Association of Medical Sciences. Because unlisted conditions are in practice not covered by insurance, doctors have been seeking payment under depression and other conditions that can be attributed to CS, with s bearing an approximately 20,000 yen co-payment per consultation.

“There is no rule that says that an unlisted condition cannot be cited in medical treatment fee claim forms, but it is more likely that conditions on the list will receive approval for health insurance coverage,” said an official at the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

Shinobu Hirota, the director of the Chemical Sensitivity Syndrome Support Center based in Yokohama said, “Having the condition approved will serve as moral support to CS sufferers.”