Pharmacists Expose Disturbing Reality of Customer Harassment, From Verbal Abuse to Physical Assault | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Pharmacists Expose Disturbing Reality of Customer Harassment, From Verbal Abuse to Physical Assault

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A pharmacist dispensing medicine. They tend to be looked down upon, and harassment is a daily occurrence.

Comedians Kenji Yamanauchi (43) and Ryuichi Hamaya (40) of the comedy duo “Kamaitachi,” along with Azusa Babazono (43) of “Asian,” sparked a major controversy with remarks belittling pharmacists on their show.

During a visit to the pharmacy, Yamanauchi complained that he found it annoying when the pharmacist asked about his symptoms. In response, Babazono said, “I understand, even if you tell them (the pharmacist), the medicine won’t change.” Hamaya also chimed in, saying, “Pharmacists are also involved in healthcare, so there’s this ‘doctor envy’ thing going on.” They scoffed at the idea that pharmacists ask patients about their symptoms again because they want to imitate doctors they admire.

In Japan’s healthcare system, pharmacists play a crucial role, and without them, there would be significant chaos in medical settings. While this is common knowledge among healthcare professionals, it seems to be underappreciated by the public. Many patients, like the two from “Kamaitachi” and Babazono, look down on pharmacists, leading to instances of customer harassment. Many pharmacists struggling with this issue have been observed over the years. Let’s hear the heartfelt voices of active pharmacists.

“Do you think you’re a doctor!?”

Pharmacist A, who has been working in a Tokyo pharmacy for 15 years, says, “There are quite a few people like Yamanauchi who find questions from pharmacists annoying.”

“We confirm symptoms to ensure the safe use of medication. Information about other medications being taken and dietary habits is important. However, there are many patients who interrupt pharmacists and say, ‘Just give me the medicine quickly!'”

Encountering monster patients who verbally abuse pharmacists is not uncommon, not just once or twice.

There are also monster patients who shout insults like “Die!” (Image is for illustration purposes only).

“I’ve been yelled at in a loud voice outside the pharmacy, ‘Do you think you’re a doctor!? Don’t get ahead of yourself as a pharmacist!’ Just for asking, ‘What’s the matter today?’ The patient suddenly started shouting. When I calmly explained, ‘We’re asking to ensure the safe use of medication,’ they got even angrier, saying, ‘What do you understand by asking!?'”

Many patients fail to understand that it’s the pharmacist’s job to ask questions. When patients use the pharmacy, a medication management counseling fee is added to the bill. Pharmacists must gather information from patients, explain how to use medication safely, manage their medication, and keep records. Except for special cases, patients cannot refuse medication management counseling fees. It’s a fee that always occurs in dispensing pharmacies.

“By asking patients about their symptoms in detail, we often discover cases where the wrong medication has been prescribed. It’s not uncommon to contact the doctor and have the medication changed. For example, cases where patients haven’t informed the doctor about the medication they usually take, and they’re prescribed medication that’s contraindicated to be taken together. Some cough suppressants and antiallergy medications cannot be used by patients with glaucoma or prostate enlargement. Certain antiallergy medications cannot be given to children who have experienced febrile seizures because they might induce seizures.

However, if patients don’t explain their medical history or current medications to the doctor, they might be prescribed medication they shouldn’t take. That’s why pharmacists double-check. Nowadays, with prescriptions being made on computers, there are also mistakes where prescriptions get swapped with those of other patients. It’s harder to differentiate compared to handwritten prescriptions, making mix-ups more likely. There are also simple mistakes in selecting medications due to the abundance of similarly named drugs. I believe every pharmacy has stories where pharmacists prevented medical errors by checking patients’ medical histories and medications.”



The drug price standard includes over 15,000 types of drugs. Pharmacists rigorously check for drug interactions and side effects.

Pharmacist B, with 8 years of experience, currently works at a pharmacy in a rural area. However, she experienced customer harassment during her first few years after graduating from university while working at a pharmacy in Tokyo.

“One time, while explaining medication to a middle-aged female patient, I sensed something unpleasant was about to happen because she didn’t respond at all. Then… I felt a slimy sensation on the hand I was pointing the medication information sheet with. She spat at me. Since this patient had previously verbally abused other pharmacists, she was considered a person of concern, and thankfully, the pharmacy manager took action. They contacted the attending physician, explained the situation, and decided not to accept prescriptions from that patient in the future. It was essentially a ban, but I still feel that slimy sensation on my hand. It’s traumatic.”

According to Article 21 of the Pharmacists Law, “A pharmacist engaged in dispensing shall not refuse a request for dispensing without justifiable reason.” However, spitting by a patient constitutes assault and allows for refusal of service. Yet, in cases of verbal abuse, refusal of service is often not permitted.


Pharmacists overcome drug shortages by proposing prescriptions to physicians.

The drug shortages that have become a social problem in recent years are also the subject of complaints.

“Due to reasons such as pharmaceutical companies’ misconduct and disasters, the supply of medications has decreased. Because of manufacturers’ shipment adjustments, medications may not reach wholesalers, hence not arriving at pharmacies. Every pharmacy nationwide is facing the same situation. Pharmacists have no control over medication shortages. Yet, we are often intimidated with accusations like ‘The pharmacy isn’t trying hard enough to stock medications!’ or ‘Find a way to get them!’ When medications that are not in stock are prescribed, we consult with physicians to switch to similar alternatives. However, some patients are still dissatisfied. In cases where generics are unavailable and brand-name drugs are prescribed, patients may demand payment for the price difference. Medication shortages continue to persist. It’s disheartening to constantly have to apologize to patients.” (Another male pharmacist, C)

As Japan progresses towards becoming a super-aged society, the role of pharmacists in visiting elderly homes and facilities to provide medication guidance and packaging medications according to individual needs (packaging) becomes increasingly important. Even comedians like “Kamaitachi” and Babazono, who insulted pharmacists on public airwaves, will find it impossible to survive without pharmacists.

  • Interview and text by Eri Yoshizawa

    Pharmacist/medical journalist

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