Ashley Briggs May 10 2012 01:05:52 PM
On April 5, 2012, the State of New York passed legislation that will require pharmacies to provide customers with information about their medications translated into their respective languages. Any pharmacy chain with eight or more stores in the state will be mandated to follow this law in an attempt to avoid medical confusion and mix-ups. The new law will take effect March 2013 and will affect 300 chain pharmacies.
Alphonso David, Governor Andrew Cuomo's Deputy Secretary of Civil Rights, says that this law will provide critical services and information to Limited English Proficiency (LEP) communities that could mean life or death.
In 2008, a study by "Make the Road NY" reported several cases in which immigrants with limited English proficiency suffered side-effects or were refused explanations about their prescribed medications. Then-Attorney General Cuomo threatened to file a lawsuit against the pharmacies unless they agreed to reform.
Most of New York's largest pharmacy chains - CVS, Rite-Aid, Target, and Wal-Mart - already provide telephonic medical services. This new law would specifically call for simultaneous translation services in the top seven spoken languages by at least 1 percent of the residents of any metropolitan area.
Some pharmacists question whether this new law will be effective, especially in the upstate area of New York. Others believe that it will be a very costly measure to implement something that isn't necessarily widely used across the state. They also voiced legal concerns because they remain liable for any side-effects based on translated instructions, which could result in a loss of license.
Despite the backlash from the pharmacies, more people in New York will now have better access to important health care information regarding their medications thanks to the provision of language translation and interpretation services, which represents a growing trend over the past decade -- at the state, local and federal levels -- with access to critical information and services for the LEP population is being vastly expanded.
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