California governor signs Rx translation bill

October 20, 2015

California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation into law that will require pharmacists throughout the state to provide prescription drug labels or medical instructions in five languages besides English.

California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation into law that will require pharmacists throughout the state to provide prescription drug labels or medical instructions in five languages besides English.

Staff Pick: Committee to study issues facing women in pharmacy

The new law will take effect in January. If requested by patients or caregivers, pharmacists would be mandated to provide medical instructions in Spanish, Russian, Chinese, Vietnamese, or Korean.

After English, those are the five most common languages spoken in California. The instructions can be provided on labels or in patient handouts.

According to the U.S. Census, nearly 20% of California’s residents have limited English skills. That’s approximately 6.8 million residents.

“Pharmacy services are an integral part of healthcare, and language skills should never be an impediment to equal access,” California Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), who sponsored the bill, toldKaiser Health News. “California is the most linguistically diverse state in the nation. By ensuring that all patients understand their medications, we will save lives and improve healthcare for millions of people.”

New York State also requires pharmacies to provide medical instruction in non-English languages that can be taken home. However, the New York law only applies to pharmacy chains with at least eight stores. The California law applies to all pharmacies.

 

The California State Board of Pharmacy already requires pharmacists to offer free interpreting services upon request. And some pharmacies throughout the state already offer translated prescription labels in different languages.

CVS, for example, provides medication instructions in 15 languages other than English. The chain also provides telephone translations in more than 150 languages, according to spokesman Mike DeAngelis.

Related Content:

Community Practice | News