March 29, 2012

Pharmacy Measure To Better Protect Limited
English Proficient Consumers

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried, and Higher Education Committee Chair Deborah Glick today praised a measure included in the 2012-13 State Budget to better protect limited English proficient (LEP) consumers by requiring translation and interpretation services be provided at pharmacies statewide.

The measure (A.9057-D) requires the translation and interpretation of medication labels, warning labels and other written material. It also allows an LEP consumer to ask questions about their medications in order to understand pharmaceutical and health-related information. Pharmacies are required to provide these services for any LEP customer who requests them or fills a prescription that indicates that the individual is limited English proficient.

"This measure makes New York one of the first states in the country to implement a statewide program of this nature," said Silver. "This change will keep New York's diverse population safer and more well-informed regarding their prescription medications."

"Imagine taking home a bottle of pills with a label you can't read. This can be a life-or-death issue," said Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried, who has sponsored similar legislation since 2010. "Governor Cuomo, who started this when he was Attorney General, Speaker Silver and my colleagues, and immigrant advocates did an amazing job in getting this included in the budget legislation."

"I applaud the broad impact of this proposal," said Assembly Higher Education Committee Chair Deborah Glick. "In addition to safeguarding LEP consumers, it also requires the Commissioner of Education to improve the understandability of prescription drug labels to ensure that all consumers better understand directions for drug use, and to improve the font types and sizes in order to promote public health and safety."

The legislation will apply to pharmacies with eight or more outlets located within New York State. They will be responsible for providing translation and interpretation services in no more than seven languages per region, as determined by the Commissioner of Education using Census data. Mail order pharmacies will also be included under this measure. Translation and interpretation services may be provided by a pharmacy employee or a third-party contractor.