Japan ME Association achieved a direct meeting with Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare Yasuhisa Shiozaki at the Minister’s offices. 12 JMEA members including JMEA President Mieko Shinohara attended, together with the secretary to House of Representatives member Seiko Noda. Five officials from the Ministry’s Specific Diseases Control Division and Planning Division also attended.
We presented Minister Shiozaki with our most recent request letter. We expressed our appreciation for the Ministry’s allocation of funds in the 2014 budget for the ME/CFS patient survey. In light of that survey’s findings-which revealed that approximately 30% of patients are bedridden or nearly bedridden and that 65% patients are unable to work-we requested the Ministry’s support for the adoption our petition for public assistance of ME patients, which will be introduced before the Diet near the end of the 2015 term.
We also requested that research be funded on Waon therapy for ME/CFS. Severe ME patients who have benefited from the treatment informed the Minister that the availability of this treatment offer relief from symptoms to patients who currently have no effective medical treatment available to them.
Minister Shiozaki stated that research concerning the diagnostic criteria to be adopted in Japan is proceeding and that the work will be completed in a reliable manner. He explained that completing the diagnostic criteria was critical as a step towards the possible inclusion of ME/CFS among diseases covered by the Act on General Support for Persons with Disabilities.
The Minister stated that research on treatments must be preceded by considerations on whether treatment benefits can be scientifically proven. The Ministry must identify the most promising treatments, while keeping in mind that treatment in the earliest stages of the disease are likely to be more effective. He separately expressed his understanding of our desire for Ministry funding for research on Waon therapy.
Minister Shiozaki offered words of encouragement and shook hands with each of the ME patients and family members at the end of the meeting. Afterward, we held a press conference at the Ministry’s press club before reporters from various news agencies including NHK and Kyodo news. Coverage of the meeting aired on the evening’s 6pm Tokyo local news and 11:30pm “News Web” programs.