En Español Know Your Rights
Source: Times Newsweekly
Subject: Language Access
Type: Media Coverage

Prescription Translation

State
Sen. John Sabini and City Council Member Eric Gioia claimed that
English-only prescriptions are threatening the health of numerous
immigrants in their respective districts.

Sabini
singled out several big-name pharmacies as denying equal access to
non-English speakers, many of whom only speak Spanish and have trouble
distinguishing key words on medicine labels, such as “once,” which
means “eleven” to many Hispanics.

Many
small drug stores that serve the Dominican and Bangladeshi communities,
according to Sabini, have a better handle on understanding their
customers’ translation needs.

“I
want to relate that it’s not just a matter of big store versus small
store,” he said. “Immigrants get it at both ends. Some stores get stuck
with a gray order—medicine that’s been recalled.”

Gioia
revealed that he and Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum have drafted
legislation requiring that translation services be made available at
all city pharmacies.

“This
is really a common sense issue. You can’t give someone medication and
not tell them how to use it. They don’t know whether to rub it on their
belly or take it orally,” said the City Council member of the 26th
Council District serving the areas of Woodside, Sunnyside, Long Island
City, Astoria and Maspeth.

Attorney
Nisha Agarwal of New York Lawyers for the Public Interest was also on
hand to mention a formal complaint made by her organization to the
state attorney general’s office in October 2007, stating that 16
medicine retailers in Queens and Brooklyn have routinely failed to
translate drug labels or give instruction to members of the immigrant
community.

“Let’s get some more laws
at the state and local levels, and they will be the first of their kind in the U.S.,” she
said.

Agrawal was followed by
the Director of Health Advocacy of
Make the Road New York Theo Oshiro
, who described a published
report produced by his group called "Bad
Medicine"
containing several testimonials of people who’ve
experienced difficulty in translating prescriptions.

It was also noted that children are often the victims of indecipherable and incomprehensible drug labels as well.