Council votes pharmacies to translate

August 20, 2009 3:57:29 PM PDT
The New York City Council on Thursday approved a measure that will require pharmacies with more than four stores in the five boroughs to provide free oral and written translation services to thousands in need of prescription translation assistance. The vote was passed, 36 to 7.

"When picking up prescriptions from their local pharmacists, New Yorkers are often times inundated with complicated instructions and multiple warning labels," Council Speaker Christine Quinn said. "Just imagine how difficult and potentially dangerous this situation can be for someone whose native language is not English."

Specifically, the services will include oral interpretation of counseling about the use of prescription medications, prescription medication labels, warning labels and other written material. The translation services may be provided either in person or over the phone by pharmacy staff or a third-party contractor.

"Across the city, New Yorkers with limited English proficiency are in danger of misreading prescription labels and incorrectly taking medications," Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum said. "My bill ensures that all New Yorkers have access to the prescription translation services they need to make safe medical choices."

The legislation also requires chain pharmacies to provide free written translation of prescription medication labels, warning labels and other written material vital to a consumer's use of prescription medication and also post a sign about the right to free language assistance services. Written translation services will be available in the seven languages most common among limited-English proficient New Yorkers. Currently, these are Spanish, Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese), Russian, Korean, Italian, French Creole and Polish.


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