Healthy Choices Blog

News and inspiration for healthy living in Northern California

California pharmacy board delays action on translating drug labels

Published: Thursday, Jul. 31, 2014 - 6:57 pm

The California State Board of Pharmacy steered away Thursday from a decision on whether pharmacies should be required to translate prescription drug labels for limited-English speakers and passing the issue to another committee for further discussion.

Several speakers at Thursday’s meeting urged the board to require printed translated labels on prescription bottles, arguing that the verbal interpretation does not go far enough for patients with limited English. Others, including representatives from CVS Caremark Corporation and the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, voiced their reluctance due to space constraints on the lables and liability issues.

Almost everyone agreed that a change was necessary, noting a widespread lack of adherance to prescription instructions and a high rate of adverse medical reactions among the state’s more vulnerable populations, including limited-English speakers. Linda Neuhauser, clinical professor of Community Health and Human Development at UC Berkeley, urged California to set an example for the rest of the country on the translation issue.

“We’re seeing the tip of the iceberg,” she said. “This is inevitable. It has to be done right. But it’s going to happen.”

Still, there are grey areas to be worked out, such as what languages would require translation, how to assure accuracy of translations and whom to hold liable in the case of an error. The board’s Communication and Public Education Committee will consider comments from the forum during its Sept. 18 meeting and report back to the board with recommendations if necessary.


Call The Bee’s Sammy Caiola, (916) 321-1636.

Read more articles by Sammy Caiola



About Healthy Choices

Cynthia CraftCynthia H. Craft began her reporting and editing career in Columbus, Ohio, after graduating from Ohio State University. She worked at a Dallas, Texas, newspaper as an editor, and then at the Los Angeles Times, as an editor and Capitol Bureau correspondent. After working as editor in chief at the California Journal, Craft went to Lima, Peru, for three years as a visiting professor of journalism at Peruana Universidad de Ciencias Aplicadas. She was a fellow in 2012 at the National Library for Medicine in Washington, D.C. at the National Institute for Health. She's currently The Sacramento Bee's senior writer on health, a position made possible by a grant from The California Endowment.

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Email: ccraft@sacbee.com.
Phone: (916) 321-1270
On Twitter: @cynthiahcraft.

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Note: The Healthy Choices blog switched blog platforms in August 2013. All posts after the switch are found here. Older posts are available using the list below.

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