Proposed California law could be cure for a language barrier at the pharmacy

A bill passed unanimously on September 10 by California lawmakers would require pharmacists to provide prescription drug labels or medication instructions in five languages besides English. The bill will be sent to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature and would take effect on January 1, if signed into law.

A bill passed unanimously on September 10 by California lawmakers would require pharmacists to provide prescription drug labels or medication instructions in five languages besides English. The bill will be sent to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature and would take effect on January 1, if signed into law. Upon request from patients or their caregivers, pharmacists would need to provide medication instructions in Spanish, Tagalog, Chinese, Vietnamese, or Korean, the most common languages in California after English. The instructions could be on prescription labels or in patient handouts. The measure would make California the second state in the nation, after New York, to require pharmacists to provide non-English materials for patients to take home. The California law would apply to all pharmacies regardless of size. The California Board of Pharmacy, which supported the bill, already requires pharmacists to offer free interpreting services for non-English speakers, upon request at the pharmacy counter. Similar bills in previous years stalled over pharmacists' fears of liability if prescription labels or medication instruction handouts were not correctly translated. This time, pharmacists will have more flexibility and oversight in developing the translated information for their customers, says Virginia Herold, executive officer of the California Board of Pharmacy.