Complaint filed against pharmacies for absence of translation

November 2, 2007

Make the Road New York protests pharmacies for not providing translation services.

On Oct. 30, Make the Road New York, an organization dedicated to pro-motingeconomic justice, equality, and opportunities for all New Yorkers, held a protestin front of Rite Aid in Woodside, Queens, charging New York City pharmacies withdiscriminating against non-English-speaking patients. Demonstrators announcedthe filing of a civil rights complaint with New York State Attorney General AndrewCuomo's office that in-cludes testimonies from more than 20 individuals who allegedlyhave suf-fered discrimination at New York City pharmacies. CVS, Duane Reade, KraupnerPharmacy, Hamtini Pharmacy, Wal-Mart Pharmacy, Wal-greens, and Rite Aid were amongthe pharmacies mentioned in the com-plaint. The complaint was filed by Make theRoad New York, the New York Immigration Coalition, and New York Lawyers for thePublic In-terest. "From our investigation, it was clear that significant numbersof limited-English-proficient patients were not receiving the translation andinterpretation services that pharmacies have to provide by law," said Theo Oshiro,director of health advocacy at Make the Road New York.

CVS issued a statementwhich said, "CVS/pharmacy offers a program of language interpretation servicesto supplement the bilingual abilities of our store personnel in assisting pharmacycustomers who speak a lan-guage other than English. All CVS/pharmacy stores haveaccess to tele-phonic language interpretation services to provide prescriptiondrug counseling to pharmacy customers who are not proficient in English. TheseLanguage Line services allow for customer translation for over 150 languages.In addition, we are currently running a pilot test in selected New York locationsfor a video translation service."

Walgreens issued the following response:"We are surprised that a Wa-greens pharmacy could have been included in this complaint.We have taken strong measures to ensure that all patients, regardless of theirnative language, can get the vital information they need about their medications.We have offered prescription labels in as many as 14 languages for years. Twoyears ago, we also launched a service that allows us to search for a Walgreenspharmacist on duty anywhere in the country that speaks a patient's native languageso that he or she may receive a consultation via tele-phone."

A Rite Aidspokeswoman stated, "We are cooperating with the New York Attorney General. Toassist our non-English-speaking patients at the pharmacy in areas where thereis a large amount of a non-English-speaking population, we do our best to staffour pharmacy with bilingual pharmacists or technicians whenever possible. We arealso able to print monographs in English and in Spanish. We also have the abilityto print the label information in 12 different languages—11 plus Englishif requested by the customer. The bottle label will be in English and, as a sec-ondaryinformation source, we are able to print it in 11 different languages."