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Know Your Rights
Source: New York Daily News
Subject: Language Access
Type: Media Coverage

Immigration Advocates Push for Bilingual Prescription Labels

Immigrant advocates are pushing for the enforcement of laws that require drugstores to translate prescription labels for non-English-speakers, saying lax adherence is putting lives at risk.

Advocates filed a civil-rights complaint with state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo last week against stores across the city – including eight in Queens – for allegedly failing to provide translation options.

"New York’s pharmacies are putting lives in danger by not providing the service they are required to do by law," said Ana Maria Archila, co-executive director of the advocacy group Make the Road New York.

"If a patient cannot understand how to take the medicine she is taking home, the consequences can be devastating," Archila said Wednesday at a rally outside a Woodside pharmacy.

About 100 demonstrators marched outside the Roosevelt Ave. drugstore, some holding up signs and chanting in Spanish, "Si, se puede" (Yes, we can).

"No one should be denied proper health care based on their country of origin or the language they speak. This is a huge problem, especially in such a diverse area as Queens," said City Councilman Eric Gioia (D-Sunnyside), who joined the rally.

"Thousands of lives are needlessly at risk because translation assistance is not being provided," Gioia said. "We need to make sure that all people know how to use the medications they are putting in their body, and what the risks are."

Sixteen pharmacies citywide were named in the complaint. Among the eight Queens drugstores named in the complaint were Eckerd in Woodside, Rite Aid in Jamaica and Duane Reade in Ridgewood.

A spokesman for Rite Aid told the Daily News all the company’s locations are equipped with prescription translation software available to all customers.

"We have the ability to translate a label in twelve languages including Spanish, French, Arabic, Korean and Hindi," the spokesman said.

But protestors said getting a prescription at some drug stores can be like playing Russian roulette.

"I am scared every time I go to the pharmacy now. I have to take a guess if I am taking the right medicine," Lluveris Estrella, 40, of Bushwick, said through a translator.

"I just hope the pharmacies start to recognize the lives of immigrants," said Estrella. "It is scary having to worry about an overdose or death just because you can’t speak English."