KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Prescription Drug Instructions Often Lost In Translation

Chicago Tribune: "Pharmacies that print prescription labels translated into Spanish often issue inaccurate or confusing instructions that could be potentially hazardous to a patient's health, according to a report in the May issue of Pediatrics journal." Such mistakes can lead to confusion among patients like 8-year-old Linda Jimenez, whose mother typically takes her to a Spanish speaking physician, but did not have that opportunity during an emergency appointment. Jimenez's mother failed to understand the doctor's instructions, and mistook the dosage she provided to her daughter.

Also, "[p]rescription information delivered in 'Spanglish,' a mix of English and Spanish, is a frequent problem, according to the study. For example, instructions to take iron 'once' a day would mean one time. But in Spanish, 'once' means 11." Misspellings on labels, jargon and other miscommunications can also lead to problems (Woodward, Cancino and Deardorff, 5/12). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.