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Know Your Rights
Source: New York Community Media Alliance
Subject: Language Access
Type: Media Coverage

National Pharmacies Get Better Interpreting Services

To look into the implementation of the Language Access in Pharmacies Act, Make the Road New York, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, and other organizations recently released the results of the Prescription for Safety: establishing Standards for Clear and Accessible Prescription Medication, an investigation of several national chain pharmacies in New York State. The investigation revealed that the interpretation services provided by many pharmacies to immigrants who did not understand English very well was noticeably better two years ago. The investigation also indicated that some pharmacies still do not provide interpretation services or translations for prescription drug labels.

The Language Access in Pharmacies Act required that four or more branches of a pharmacy provide free and accurate labels, warnings, ingredients, and brochures language-accessible to customers with limited English skills. The interpretation services could be provided by the staff in the pharmacies or by outside interpreters. In addition, the pharmacy counters must have signs in English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Russian, Polish, Italian, and French informing customers of their interpretation services. If a pharmacy violates the law, the fine could be from $250 to $5,000.

The two organizations looked at seven national chain pharmacies that have 250 branches. The investigations concluded that in New York City, where the law is implemented, the interpretation services are much better than in areas in New York where the law is not implemented.

In New York State, about 50 percent of the pharmacies in the study did not supply translation of prescription drug labels and 30 percent did not provide interpretation services. While 62 percent complied with the law and posted signs about available interpretation services, only 12 percent of the pharmacies had the signs placed in a prominent place. Twenty-six percent of the pharmacies did not have the signs. Eleven percent had signs for partial interpretation services, and only 35 percent of the pharmacies offered translated brochures, but no verbal interpretation services.