New York City Requires Prescription Label Translation

The New York City Council updated its administrative code in 2009 to add a provision of languages assistance services in pharmacies.

This is just a brief overview of the updates to the administrative code:

https://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=452244&GUID=7423709F-DF69-4C58-8A7A-8EE91B7336AE

According to the City Council, New York is a multilingual city where more than 150 languages are spoken, almost half of the residents speak a language other than English at home and nearly a quarter do not speak English very well. Prescription medications typically include technical instructions, restrictions and warnings that are critical for the consumer to understand in order to use the product safely.

A customer’s inability to understand medication labels and instructions can easily cause errors in usage and thereby significantly endanger the health of limited English proficient residents. The difficulties limited English proficient New Yorkers may experience in communicating with their pharmacists could be greatly alleviated by the provision of interpretation services and translated medication labels.

The law requires that all covered pharmacies (which includes all pharmacy chains with four or more stores anywhere in the U.S., not just located in NYC) provide written translation of certain materials in the seven languages that are the “primary languages” in New York City.

 

The list of the 7 primary languages is to be determined annually by the City, but currently consists of:

  • Spanish

  • Chinese

  • Russian

  • Korean

  • Italian

  • Haitian Creole

  • Bengali

Every chain pharmacy shall provide free, competent translation of prescription medication labels, warning labels and other written material to each LEP individual filling a prescription at such chain pharmacy if that individual’s primary language is one of the pharmacy primary languages, in addition to providing such labels and materials in English.

Nothing in this section shall prohibit a chain pharmacy from providing dual- or multi-language medication labels, warning labels or other written materials to LEP individuals who speak on of the pharmacy primary languages if one of the languages included on such labels or sheets is the LEP individual’s primary language.

 

Civil penalties will be applied for pharmacies who do not comply.

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