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Know Your Rights
Source: Associated Press
Subject: Language Access
Type: Media Coverage

Pharmacies Agree To Translate Drug Instructions

Two major pharmacy chains have agreed to translate prescription drug instructions into customers’ primary languages in more than 2,000 stores across New York.

In agreements with the state attorney general, CVS and Rite Aid, which also owns Eckerd and Genovese pharmacies, agreed to counsel and provide written translations in Spanish, Chinese, Italian, Russian, French and Polish — languages spoken by more than 1 percent of New York’s population.

CVS since 2005 has provided telephone interpretation for more than 150 languages to assist pharmacists and prescription instructions chain-wide in Spanish since 2004, spokesman Michael DeAngelis said. They plan to make additional languages available for printed information, with a March 31, 2010, deadline under the New York agreement.

Rite Aid spokeswoman Cheryl Slavinsky said the chain, with pharmacies in 31 states and the District of Columbia, was already working on its written and spoken language capability and has bilingual staff in many locations.

“We’ve got a year and half to implement all of the things in the agreement,” Slavinsky said. “We’ve got to provide our customers with these kinds of services as our nation grows more diverse in its population.”

The Attorney General’s Office said it investigated complaints against New York pharmacies from the nonprofit organization Make the Road New York, and the investigation is continuing. State law requires pharmacists to provide information about prescription drugs orally and in writing and prohibits discriminating against non-English speakers, officials said.

Census data show more than 1 million New Yorkers who do not speak English well or at all, according to Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. He said misunderstanding dosages, side effects and allergic reactions can be “a matter of life and death.”