On Oct. 30, Make the Road New York, an organization dedicated to promoting economic justice, equality, and opportunities for all New Yorkers, held a protest in front of Rite Aid in Woodside, Queens, charging New York City pharmacies with discriminating against non-English-speaking patients. Demonstrators announced the filing of a civil rights complaint with New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s office that in-cludes testimonies from more than 20 individuals who allegedly have suffered discrimination at New York City pharmacies. CVS, Duane Reade, Kraupner Pharmacy, Hamtini Pharmacy, Wal-Mart Pharmacy, Wal-greens, and Rite Aid were among the pharmacies mentioned in the com-plaint. The complaint was filed by Make the Road New York, the New York Immigration Coalition, and New York Lawyers for the Public Interest. “From our investigation, it was clear that significant numbers of limited-English-proficient patients were not receiving the translation and interpretation services that pharmacies have to provide by law,” said Theo Oshiro, director of health advocacy at Make the Road New York.
CVS issued a statement which said, “CVS/pharmacy offers a program of language interpretation services to supplement the bilingual abilities of our store personnel in assisting pharmacy customers who speak a lan-guage other than English. All CVS/pharmacy stores have access to tele-phonic language interpretation services to provide prescription drug counseling to pharmacy customers who are not proficient in English. These Language Line services allow for customer translation for over 150 languages. In addition, we are currently running a pilot test in selected New York locations for a video translation service.”
Walgreens issued the following response: “We are surprised that a Walgreens pharmacy could have been included in this complaint. We have taken strong measures to ensure that all patients, regardless of their native language, can get the vital information they need about their medications. We have offered prescription labels in as many as 14 languages for years. Two years ago, we also launched a service that allows us to search for a Walgreens pharmacist on duty anywhere in the country that speaks a patient’s native language so that he or she may receive a consultation via telephone.”
A Rite Aid spokeswoman stated, “We are cooperating with the New York Attorney General. To assist our non-English-speaking patients at the pharmacy in areas where there is a large amount of a non-English-speaking population, we do our best to staff our pharmacy with bilingual pharmacists or technicians whenever possible. We are also able to print monographs in English and in Spanish. We also have the ability to print the label information in 12 different languages11 plus English if requested by the customer. The bottle label will be in English and, as a secondary information source, we are able to print it in 11 different languages.”