En Español Know Your Rights
Source: North Country Gazette
Subject: Language Access
Type: Media Coverage

Stores Agree To Translate Medication Instructions

Wal-Mart
and Target, the two largest retail chain stores in the United States; Duane Reade, the largest pharmacy
chain in New York City; and Costco Wholesale
Corporation, the largest wholesale club operator in the country, have agreed to
provide New York
customers with prescription medication instructions in their primary
language.

 


In
addition, A & P, one of the largest supermarkets on the East Coast operating
Pathmark, Super Fresh, and Food Emporium among others, also entered into the
same agreement with the Attorney General. Under the terms of these agreements,
the companies will counsel all pharmacy customers about prescription
information in their own language and provide written translations in Spanish,
Chinese, Italian, Russian, and French.

 


The
agreements announced Tuesday are the result of an undercover investigation into
the policies and procedures of pharmacies, conducted by the Attorney General’s
Office, which found that pharmacies routinely fail to advise non-English
speaking customers in a language that allows them to understand the purpose,
dosage, and side-effects of their medications. Attorney General Andrew Cuomo
announced the first of these groundbreaking agreements, with CVS and Rite-Aid,
in November of last year.

  

“The need
to understand prescription information can literally be a matter of life and
death,” said Cuomo.“There are over one
million people in New York
who don’t speak English as their first language, and this agreement will ensure
they have the medical information needed to protect their health and well-being
and that of their families. New York
is defined by its diverse population, and it is our job to make sure that every
member of that population, whether English is their first language or not, has
access to adequate assistance in understanding their medication.”

 
 

New York law requires pharmacists to
personally provide information about prescription drugs to all patients, orally
and in writing, and prohibits pharmacies from conducting business in a way that
discriminates against non-English speakers.
 

According
to census data, over one million New Yorkers do not speak English “well or at
all.” The health and safety of these New Yorkers are put at risk when they are
unable to comprehend the instructions for using their medication.New Yorkers with limited ability to speak
English have experienced allergic reactions, adverse side effects, and other
health problems due to their inability to understand medical instructions, and
in some instances, have refrained from taking medication at all.

The
agreements with the Attorney General affect more than 700 stores statewide and
require the pharmacies to:

 

  • Identify whether a customer
    needs assistance in understanding their prescription medication;
  • Inform customers of their right
    to free assistance in reading and understanding their prescription
    medication;
  • Provide prescription labels and
    directions regarding dosage and safety information in the six languages
    that are spoken by more than one percent of the population of New York;
  • Provide additional assistance
    orally in all languages; and
  • Ensure that pharmacy staff
    counsel customers about their prescription medication in the customer’s
    own language.

The
Attorney General’s Office received complaints about the practices of New York pharmacies from the non-profit organization Make the Road New York.