Calif. Pharmacy Board Postpones Decision on Rx Label Translations
On Thursday, the California State Board of Pharmacy decided to postpone a decision on whether pharmacies in the state should be required to translate prescription drug labels for patients who speak little or no English, the Sacramento Bee reports (Caiola, Sacramento Bee, 7/31).
According to recent census data, about 44% of California residents speak a language besides English, and more than half of such residents speak limited or no English. In addition, experts have estimated that about one-third of the three million California residents who have gained health coverage through the Affordable Care Act speak limited English.
There are no federal requirements that regulate medication instruction translations.
Following the passage of a state law (SB 472) in 2007, the state pharmacy board began offering on its website standard dose instructions in Chinese, Korean, Russian, Spanish and Vietnamese. However, the law does not require that pharmacies use the translations, and many do not.
California Board of Pharmacy CEO Virginia Herold said a survey of more than 200 pharmacies in the state found that about 70% offered some sort of prescription instruction translations, but the quality of such translations is unknown because not many used the translations provided on the board's website.
State residents also have the right to no-cost oral translations of prescription labels and instructions offered via a hotline or pharmacy staff (California Healthline, 7/24).
Details of Postponement
During a meeting on Thursday, the pharmacy board decided to pass the issue on to its Communication and Public Education Committee for further review.
Several speakers at the meeting urged the board to require printed translated drug labels, arguing that oral translation is not sufficient and patients' health could be endangered.
Meanwhile, representatives from CVS Caremark and the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy spoke against the proposed requirement, citing liability issues and lack of space on drug labels.
However, stakeholders agreed that some change was necessary, according to the Bee.
The committee will consider the issue during a meeting on Sept. 18 and report back to the board with recommendations (Sacramento Bee, 7/31).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.