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Availability of Prescription Labels in Spanish Is Limited

Armen Hareyan's picture

Prescription Label

A study of New York City pharmacies found that only 69 percent have the ability to provide prescription labels in Spanish and that pharmacists only do so upon customer request, despite the high concentration of Spanish speakers in the area surveyed.

In addition, the accuracy of the prescriptions that are translated is uncertain, which could lead to errors when patients take medication, say study authors led by Iman Sharif, M.D., of the Montefiore Medical Center in New York.

"Automatically printing labels in both Spanish and English would probably be a very good first step to addressing this issue," Sharif said. "To be effective and to avoid disparities in health-care delivery to minority groups, the mandate should apply to all pharmacies across the United States."

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The research team conducted a telephone survey of all pharmacies in the Bronx to determine if Spanish prescription labels were available in the study in the February issue of the Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved.

Of the 161 pharmacies that participated, only 111 said they could provide prescription labels in Spanish, although the population in the area defined as Spanish-speaking was over 46 percent overall.

Most of the pharmacies used a computer program for translating; 11 percent used their staff for this purpose. Smaller pharmacies that were not part of large chains and those in areas with higher populations of Spanish speakers were more likely to have translation available.

"As the Spanish-speaking population has grown, many other things have been translated easily into Spanish