California Pharmacists Resist Translating Medicine Labels

April Dembosky | NPR Shots | July 30, 2014

Every Saturday morning, a steady stream of Chinese and Vietnamese patients line up at the Paul Hom Asian Clinic in Sacramento. Most of them speak little or no English.  Patient Assistance Director Danny Tao says people come here to get free medical consultations and drug prescriptions. But when patients take those prescriptions to be filled, he says, they don't understand the instructions on the label.

...Tao says drug labels at most pharmacies in California are printed only in English. That puts patients in danger of making any number of errors — taking too much medicine or not enough, or taking it at the wrong time of day. Such mistakes can cause serious harm or even death.

Tao says that all the drugs his clinic supplies directly to patients have a bilingual label — English and Chinese, or English and Vietnamese.  "By the time they get home," he says, "they know exactly how to take the medication, because it's in their own language."  This week California's Board of Pharmacy will discuss new regulations that would require all pharmacies in the state to provide translated labels on prescription drug bottles...