heels of Attorney General Andrew Cuomos agreement with big-name, statewide
pharmacies to provide translation assistance to customers, elected officials
and advocates gathered at City Hall recently to urge the passing of a City
Council bill that would enforce such services at all of the citys chain
agreements, announced April 21, were the result of his undercover investigation
into pharmacists alleged disregard for a state law prohibiting them from
discriminating, via their business practices, against non-English speakers.
agreements will affect the pharmacy counters at statewide retailers including
Wal-Mart, Target, Duane Reade, Costco and A & P-operated supermarkets. Like
settlements reached with CVS and Rite Aid in November 2008, the latest
agreements call on the pharmacies to provide prescription labels and directions
regarding medication dosage and safety information in the six languages spoken
by over one percent of the states population.
advocacy groups like Make the Road New York which initially brought the issue
to Cuomos attention and filed a 2006 civil rights complaint against several
pharmacies lauded the Attorney General for his landmark agreements, they
realize the settlements are time-limited and will expire within a few years.
Language Access in Pharmacies Act, on the other hand, introduced by Public
Advocate Betsy Gotbaum and 12 City Councilmembers in October 2008, would have
no time constraint and would augment the existing state law, as well as bolster
Cuomos agreements with the seven pharmacy chains.
if passed, would indefinitely require every chain pharmacy to provide free,
competent oral interpretation services to limited English proficiency (LEP)
individuals regarding their medication prescriptions, warning labels and
patient information sheets.
under the law, pharmacies would have to conspicuously post a notification of
patients right to translation services. Smaller pharmacies, for which such
services are not mandated, would have to provide a notification of three nearby
pharmacies that do offer translations. A failure to comply would result in a fine.
bills language, its authors cited a 2007 New York Academy of Medicine study
that found that just 34 percent of city pharmacies reported translating
prescription labels on a daily basis. This, despite the fact that 88 percent
admitted serving LEP customers and 80 percent were capable of providing
understanding a prescription you are given is a basic right, yet pharmacies all
around the city are allowing New Yorkers to take home medication with
instructions they cant understand, Gotbaum said in a statement the day of the
May 4 hearing to promote the Councils bill. If even a few words of a vital
medical instruction are lost on a patient, the result can be disastrous. We owe
it to New Yorkers to pass this bill.