Korea, Japan OK with US personnel carrying medicines off base

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A servicemember counts pills for a prescription. (Mark Garcia/U.S. Marine Corps)
From Stripes.com
A servicemember counts pills for a prescription. (Mark Garcia/U.S. Marine Corps)

Korea, Japan OK with US personnel carrying medicines off base

by: Seth Robson | .
Stars and Stripes | .
published: March 18, 2015

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — U.S. personnel in Japan and South Korea won’t get in trouble if they take prescription or over-the-counter medication off-base, even if the ingredients are prohibited under host-nation law, according to local national officials.

A U.S. English teacher, Carrie Russell, was arrested last month after officials discovered 180 Adderall pills that she had mailed to her new home in Nagoya, Japan. Russell’s mother earlier sent the pills — used to treat attention deficit disorder — to her daughter in South Korea, according to the Tribune News Service.

Adderall, which contains amphetamines, is illegal in Japan and South Korea. Ritalin, the other main drug used in the West to treat ADD, was banned in 2007 in Japan as officials cited widespread abuse.

Pseudoephedrine-based medications sold over-the-counter in the U.S. and at on-base commissaries are also controlled substances in South Korea and Japan.

Warnings about the import of cold and flu medications with brand names such as Tylenol, Nyquil, Actifed, Sudafed, Advil, Dristan, Drixoral, Vicks and Lomotil are posted on Japanese consular websites. The cold and flu remedies contain narcotic or stimulant ingredients in excess of Japan’s standards, the websites state.

However, officials said U.S. military personnel won’t get in trouble if they take that type of medication off-base.

U.S. Forces Korea spokesman Andre Kok said by email that the Status of Forces Agreement there affords the U.S. the right to furnish medical support for troops, civilians and family members.

“There are no prohibitions on use or possession of prescribed medications off post/base,” he said.

Korean officials said U.S. military personnel would not be in trouble for possessing such medications for therapeutic purposes.

A spokesman for Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said the ban on import of certain medications doesn’t apply to products purchased on a military installation.

“As long as the medicine is legally purchased on a U.S. military installation and correctly used, there is no problem,” he said.

However, Kok said servicemembers in Korea should be careful shopping at off-base pharmacies to avoid buying medicine that would otherwise require a prescription and might constitute a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, he said.

U.S. Forces Japan spokesman Lt. Col. Kenneth Hoffman said Bron, an over-the-counter cough suppressant commonly sold in Japan, is a prohibited substance for all servicemembers, and its use is punishable under the UCMJ because it contains methylephedrine, codeine, caffeine and chlorpheniramine, Hoffman said.

Stars and Stripes staffers Chiyomi Sumida and Yoo Kyong Chang contributed to this report.

robson.seth@stripes.com
Twitter: @SethRobson1