According to the complaint, federal law and state health regulations require pharmacies to guarantee equal access to care for those with limited English language skills. Such assistance should include interpreters at pharmacies and a written translation of prescription labels, according to the complaint. Advocates said that not all pharmacies have policies that correspond with those regulations, and even the ones that do, do not follow them consistently.
The complaint also cites the New York Education Law, which says that medications must be labeled in a way that ordinary people can understand.
The complaint was initiated by the immigrant advocacy groups Make the Road New York, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest and the New York Immigration Coalition and updates an earlier version of the complaint that was filed in July.
The complaint expected to be filed Wednesday adds additional pharmacies to the list and includes a report with additional examples of issues non-English-speaking customers have had at pharmacies. Nisha Agarwal, a lawyer for one of the groups filing the complaint, said that in response to the original complaint, the attorney general's office issued subpoenas to several pharmacies.
Andrew Friedman, an executive director of Make the Road New York, said, "The idea is that people should not be placed in danger by not understanding their medication regimen."
According to a study to be published in the November issue of the Journal of Urban Health, 34% of 200 New York City pharmacies translated medication labels daily for non-English-speaking patients and 80% said they had the ability to do so.
The study also found that 88% of the pharmacies surveyed reported working with non-English-speaking customers on a daily basis and that 26% said they never translated labels for non-English-speaking customers.
Source: Kaiser Family Foundation