Few New York City Pharmacies Translate Prescription Drug Labels Despite Ability To Do So, Study Finds
Thirty-four percent of New York City pharmacies reported having translated prescription drug labels daily for customers with limited English language skills, though 80% reported having the ability to do so, according to a study by the New York Academy of Medicine that was presented at the annual meeting of the Society for General Internal Medicine in Toronto, United Press International reports (United Press International, 4/27).
New York City's 8.2 million person population includes 2.9 million foreign-born residents and individuals who speak 130 different languages. An estimated one of every four adults in the city are unable to speak or read in English proficiently and 46% of the population uses English as a second language outside their homes.
For the study, Linda Weiss, a senior researcher at the NYAM, and colleagues randomly surveyed randomly selected 200 of the more than 2,000 pharmacies in New York City in 2006. Eighty-eight percent of pharmacists said they served patients with limited-English proficiency daily.
According to the study, 54% of pharmacists providing translated labels reported they did so after noticing the customer was struggling with speaking in English and 33% did so at the customer's request. More than 80% of pharmacists did not have a method of identifying patients with translation needs and for informing them of translation services. Further, 24% of pharmacists noted limited translation tools as a barrier to providing translation services, while 20% reported a need for bilingual personnel and 5% cited a concern for legal issues (NYAM release, 4/27).
Current laws require health care providers receiving federal funds to provide translation services. Weiss said she will seek to determine whether the laws apply to pharmacies (United Press International, 4/27).
"Many New York immigrants face such high-risk gaps in our health care services when presented with a medication bottle in English," she said, adding, "New York City pharmacies would engage in good health and business practices by providing labels and health counseling in languages their patients understand" (NYAM release, 4/27).