The language of prescriptions

Debate emerges over whether pharmacists should translate drug labels

A push to require pharmacists in California to provide translated written directions for prescriptions is meeting resistance—from pharmacists.

Patients’ advocates have asserted that providing translated directions for medication would reduce the risk of harm to patients who don’t read English, according to California Healthline. But many pharmacists, including the California Pharmacist Association, argue the opposite: that forcing them to distribute prescription instructions in languages they don’t understand would be a huge liability.

Stakeholders will meet to discuss the issue during a California Board of Pharmacy meeting today (July 31) in Sacramento.

About 44 percent of Californians speak a language other than English, and more than half of those residents speak limited or no English. Further, about one-third of the 3 million people in California who recently gained access to health coverage through the Affordable Care Act are not fluent English-speakers.