I put this blog post together as I wanted to report about how World Benzodiazepine Awareness Day (W-BAD) has had an impact in Japan, one of the countries recently having some success resulting from benzodiazepine campaigning.
As I got to writing, I soon realized there was no one factor that has led to Japan’s campaign progress, but rather a culmination of things—including doctors, patients, and media all working together, as well as a collaboration among support groups and threats of increased legal action.
Although much of the background information provided below focuses on my own story and efforts, that is where a lot of it started (for me at least), leading to the creation of W-BAD and the momentum that’s been gained in Japan ever since.
1) Background/History (including W-BAD)
2) Demands made
3) The impact
5) Organization / Leadership
6) Threats of legal action
8) Partial translation of recent magazine article
1. Background/History (including W-BAD)
A) Mid 2012: Assisted with translating The Ashton Manual in Japanese which was published on August 19, 2012 (Main translator: Ryo Tanaka, Assistant translator: Wayne Douglas, Chief Editor: Dr. Beppu, Vice Chair of Medwatcher Japan and friend of Dr. David Healy, Proofreader: Prof. Reisaku Tanaka).
B) Aug 2012: Coordinated an interview between Prof. Ashton and the Yomiuri Newspaper (the largest readership in the world) for an article to help raise awareness regarding some of the problems with benzodiazepines in Japan.
C) Aug 20, 2012: Yomiuri Newspaper reported on the publishing of The Ashton Manual in Japanese.
D) Dec 20, 2013: Same Yomiuri Newspaper reporter published a book on the prescription drug and sinister mental health practices in Japan, covering personal accounts he’d encountered as an investigative reporter, including my story and The Ashton Manual.
E) Mar 2014: Launched my website (benzo-case-japan.com) in Japanese and English with the hope that others might be able to benefit from the sharing of my experiences, information, and The Ashton Manual.
F) Apr 11, 2014: Same Yomiuri Newspaper covered my personal story and publicized the launching of my website.
G) Jul 22, 2014: Received an e-mail from an Asahi Newspaper reporter (Japan’s 2nd largest readership) saying: “Prof. Osamu Tajima, Japan’s most renowned psychiatrist [a drug wary doctor, who reminded me of a Japanese version of psychiatrist Dr. Peter Breggin, and a friend of Dr. David Healy] made an address at the Japan National Psychiatry Association, stating: ‘everyone should read and use The Ashton Manual.’ This influence on psychiatry in Japan has come about thanks to Ryo Tanaka and you [meaning me] for doing the translation of the manual.”
H) Jul 22, 2014: The same day, the Asahi Newspaper covered my personal story and reported Prof. Tajima’s comment above.
J) Oct 2014: Gave a presentation to highlight the dangers of misprescribing benzodiazepines and similar drugs at the International Society of Addiction Medicine World Congress at the Paciﬁco Yokohama Conference Center in Yokohama, Japan. During the open hour on the last day, I invited about 25 prescribed benzodiazepine victims to help me distribute pamphlets, warning of the drug class’ dangers.
K) Apr 2015: Participated in talks at Medwatcher Japan (also attended by Prof. Heather Ashton’s, benzodiazepine expert out of the UK and author of The Ashton Manual, grandson) for the forming of a doctors’ petition to the Japanese Ministry of Health.
L) Dec 2015: Worked on establishing World Benzodiazepine Awareness Day (currently housed at w-bad.org, but was temporarily housed initially on my BCJ site).
M) Apr 2016: As part of the W-BAD Japan initiative, Mr. Kotani wrote a citizen’s petition (based on the above doctors’ petition) and submitted it to the Japanese Ministry of Health.
N) May 2016: Worked with Mr. Kotani and Ms. Shimada in organizing the W-BAD Ministry visitation and the Shinjuku Pamphlet Appeal.
O) Jun 27, 2016: Participated in W-BAD Pamphlet Appeal at Shinjuku Station in Tokyo which was held a month prior to the first W-BAD as a preliminary event (3 politicians joined us and we handed out 5,000 pamphlets at Shinjuku Station together with about 25 victims and supporters).
Another short clip from the pamphlet appeal at Shinjuku Station in Tokyo, Japan with Wayne Douglas, W-BAD Organizer.
Posted by World Benzodiazepine Awareness Day: W-BAD on Wednesday, June 29, 2016
P) Jul 11, 2016: The 1st World Benzodiazepine Awareness Day. Participated in talks at the Japanese Health Ministry with 40 victims from all over Japan and Tokyo Metropolitan Legislator, Ms. Reiko Ueda. Then formally submitted our petition again in person.
Wayne at the Japanese Ministry of Health, which determines food and drug regulations. #WORLDBENZODAY
Posted by World Benzodiazepine Awareness Day: W-BAD on Monday, July 11, 2016
Q) Jun 2017: We repeated (O) above, but pamphlet distribution was done as individuals away from the station front, as Ms. Reiko Ueda could not participate during election time.
R) July 11, 2017: The 2nd World Benzodiazepine Awareness Day. Participated in talks at the Japanese Health Ministry with about 45 victims from all over Japan.
Wayne Douglas, W-BAD's Organizer, is filmed outside of the Japanese Ministry of Health on #WORLDBENZODAY where he is surrounded by other Japanese campaigners. This video was filmed immediately after their meeting in which they campaigned for changes around prescribed benzodiazepines.
Posted by World Benzodiazepine Awareness Day: W-BAD on Tuesday, July 11, 2017
S) Nov 1, 2017: Participated in follow-up talks with Medwatcher Japan at the Ministry of Health
2. Demands made
The demands made in both the doctors’ petition, drafted by Medwatcher Japan, and our W-BAD citizen’s petition, can be seen in this overview here.
3. The Impact
The impact of (A) – (C) above helped show the general public that mistakes have been made and that there is hope in The Ashton Manual.
The impact of (D) – (J) above helped inspire the general public by showing that a foreigner was fighting a hard battle in their country.
The impact of (K) above provided both professional and legal backing that things were wrong and needed to change (Medwatcher Japan is made up of volunteer doctors and lawyers).
The impact of (L) – (R) above (the impact of W-BAD) includes the following:
- It has given the people an opportunity to unite, gathering from all over Japan
- One lady flew up from Okinawa after being bedridden for years. She ran up to me crying when she saw the blue W-BAD T-shirt, saying it was like a beckon of hope and that The Ashton Manual had saved her life.
- People felt empowered having this platform to unite and have the opportunity to voice their concerns (especially in Japan where traditionally they keep quiet).
- Handing out the pamphlets was therapeutic for many, feeling they could help correct the wrong that had caused their suffering.
- People speaking up at the W-BAD Ministry visitation made what was being said in the petitions and newspapers real: these were real people, real emotions, with real stories and it had some of the Ministry staff in tears (this is the impact of firsthand stories, as opposed to just words on paper).
- On March 3, 2017, following two W-BAD visitations and the doctors’ petition, the Japanese Ministry of Health ordered amendments to all package inserts for BZs making all pharmaceutical companies remove the word ‘large’ from the following sentence: “Can be dependence forming on large repeated doses.” (Incidentally, this was one of the points I lost my court case on). I then attended follow-up talks with Dr. Beppu and Medwatcher Japan in November 2017 (shown in W-BAD’s 2017 photos), demanding that they include the word ‘clinical’ in front of ‘repeated doses,’ instead of just removing the word ‘large.’ This was my last activism in person while in Japan before returning home to NZ (see submission here).
- The Japanese Ministry of Health is now under pressure, scrambling to make changes, made evident in recent magazine articles (see the translation below under section #7).
In addition to the above, representatives from other campaigning/support groups collaborated with W-BAD during the 2017 Ministry of Health visitation and pamphlet appeals. These included blog writer for The Truth of Psychiatry, Ms. Kazuko Shimada, who is our W-BAD Japan Representative and Admin for the Japan Facebook Page, as well as Mr. Tada, who established the Benzodiazepine Yakugai (drug damages) Association (BYA), a platform for a proposed class action against the Japanese Government for BZ damages, along with various other groups who have been submitting additional petitions to the Ministry of Health since the first W-BAD petition back in July 2016.
5. Organization / Leadership
Japan is also benefiting from increased organization and leadership. During the inaugural W-BAD in 2016, Mr. Kotani did the planning for the Ministry of Health visitation, Ms. Shimada did the recruiting and I was in charge of coordinating. Organizing the ministry visitation was effective because it created an audience between the victims of a failed system and the people who run it, and I highly recommend that others apply for such visitations along with submissions of petitions in their own countries. To help create more organization and leadership in other countries and regions, we have recently been working on adding both Country Reps and US State Reps to our team.
6. Threats of legal action
My own personal legal action in Japan (available on my website, benzo-case-japan.com, in English and Japanese) was made public and has been no secret, nor has the aforementioned proposed class action against the government for damages been kept quiet. Also, the Japanese Ministry of Health is fully aware that I have made all my court documents public on my website, which many people considering legal action have been using as a point of reference, including Mr. Tada and his lawyer, whose case recently (June 2018) reached a judgment in the Nagoya High Court (The plaintiff, a Clonazepam victim, lost the case. His claims for $1.7 million for damages were dismissed. However, the defendant’s violation of their informed consent obligation was accepted, ordering payment of about $12 thousand).
In summary, the impact W-BAD is having on Japan is that it is giving the people a voice, a chance to unite and make themselves heard, empowering them to confront the very organization that governs the industry, and, at the same time, providing them with a means of healing through this empowerment.
The fact that things are moving in Japan and that changes are being made can be put down to a culmination of doctors, patients, and media all working together for a successfully combined effect—the doctors providing the medical evidence and expert opinions, the patients’ real-life harrowing stories and socioeconomic costs, and the media for bringing it to public attention, as well as increased organization and leadership among the W-BAD campaigners.
Other things that can be factored in here is the fact the Japanese Ministry of Health is now being bombarded by petitions from not only the doctors through Medwatcher Japan and the like but also various citizen support groups who were inspired by W-BAD’s efforts, W-BAD itself, and now BYA, together with threats of more legal action from individuals and a class action waiting in the wings.
W-BAD is playing and has played its role by empowering the benzodiazepine-injured Japanese people to organize in unity, both in their important relationship with the doctors and media mentioned above, as well as in their muti-group collaboration resulting in more powerful lobbying (much in the same way W-BAD has been collaborating with Benzodiazepine Information Coalition (BIC) and the As Prescribed documentary in the US for the W-BAD 2018 T-shirt campaign and the like).
8. Partial Translation of Recent Japanese Magazine Article
Now Proved! Suspect side-effects of a drug that just sells and sells
The Ministry of Health announces startling new information
On April 18 of this year (2018), the content announced by the Ministry of Health in the “Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Safety Information” was startling.
A psychiatrist from a general hospital explains:
It seems these announcements (of amendments) are happening almost every day with new entries regarding “cautions” and “serious side-effects” for both prescription and over-the-counter drugs.
In an April update, there were many more amendments about side-effects for more drugs than usual, and most of these were hypnotics for sleep and anxiolytics for stress/anxiety.
For example, Halcion is widely prescribed for sleep and now has the following caution:
“Prolonged continued use should be avoided, as dependency can from on repeated dosing. When making repeat prescriptions of this medication, the necessity for continued treatment must be duly evaluated.”
The same cautions were made for Xanax, Lunesta, Ambien, Myslee, Rohypnol, Rilmazafone and Depas, totaling 38 medications.
The medications in question were hypnotics, anxiolytics, anticonvulsants, psychotropic agents etc., with these psychoactive drugs called benzodiazepines (Halcion, Xanax, depas etc.) being most prevalent.
Wayne Douglas is W-BAD’s co-founder and organizer. He is from Auckland, New Zealand. He was born in 1966 and spent most of his adult life in Japan, where he was inappropriately prescribed 3 different BZs and an antidepressant without informed consent, off the back of an incorrect diagnosis (he initially had an ear problem), leading to long-term suffering and damage.
He then set out for recognition and compensation, progressing through the entire Japanese judicial system all the way to The Supreme Court of Japan. Each of the courts refused to recognize his case, despite the overwhelming evidence and the backing of Prof. Heather Ashton. Soon after the Tokyo High Court verdict was delivered, he was displaced by the 3-11 mega-quake and Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Despite the added difficulties, instead of giving in and returning home, he began campaigning for the cause by launching his website, assisting with the translation of The Ashton Manual in Japanese, representing victims / sufferers worldwide at the International Society of Addiction Medicine World Congress in Yokohama, participating in a doctor’s petition to the Japanese government, and more recently co-organizing World Benzodiazepine Awareness Day which had its inaugural event on July 11, 2016.
Click here to learn more about Wayne and his story.