New Yorkers Will Receive Rx Translations--November 2008

Eileen Koutnik-Fotopoulos, Staff Writer
Published Online: Thursday, November 20, 2008
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CVS and Rite Aid will translate prescription drug instructions into customers’ primary language in more than 2000 stores in New York. The move is part of agreements with State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.
With these agreements, the 2 major pharmacy chains will counsel all pharmacy customers about prescription information in their own language and provide written translations in Spanish, Chinese, Italian, Russian, French, and Polish. Census data show that more than 1 million New Yorkers do not speak English well or at all. Non–English-speaking New Yorkers have experienced allergic reaction, adverse side effects, and other health problems due to their inability to understand medical instructions, and in some cases, have refrained from taking medication at all, according to a statement from Cuomo’s office. The pharmacy chains have until March 31, 2010, to comply with all the requirements in the agreements. Both chains already have some translation services in place.
“Understanding prescription information is a matter of life and death,” said Cuomo. “We need to make sure that all New Yorkers can read and understand the vital information about their medications, regardless of whether English is their first language. CVS and Rite Aid have taken important steps to ensure that customers receive proper assistance in understanding their medication, and my office’s investigation into the practices of other pharmacies continues.”
The agreements with the state 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 6 languages that are spoken by more than 1% of the population of New York.
  • Provide additional assistance in all languages through a service called Language Line.
  • Ensure that pharmacy staff counsel customers about their prescription medication in the customer’s own language.
Cuomo’s office received complaints about the practices of New York pharmacies from the nonprofit organization Make the Road New York.

For other articles in this issue, see:

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