Published Online: Saturday, March 1, 2008

Non?English-speaking New Yorkers face a language barrier at the pharmacy counter, according to immigrant and health care advocates.

The majority of pharmacies, mainly in the outer boroughs, do not provide translation services to their patients. Some advocates said that although the state approved regulations in 2006 that set out language requirements for hospitals, pharmacies were overlooked. A report by the New York Academy of Medicine found that two thirds of city pharmacies do not translate prescription labels, even though 88% said they served limited?English-proficiency patients daily.

Nisha Agarwal, a staff attorney with New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, believes the city's existing human rights laws, which bar discrimination based on race or ethnicity in public places, require pharmacies to translate. Agarwal's law firm and Make the Road by Walking have filed a complaint with the state's attorney general's office claiming that 16 pharmacies in Queens and Brooklyn regularly failed to translate drug labels or provide instruction to non- English speakers, thus violating their statutory duty.

The group hopes that the legislation being drafted will mirror what the state mandated for hospitals in 2006, making language access a requirement of quality health care.

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