Gov. Brown signs law requiring translation of drug information

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill that requires California pharmacists to provide translations of prescription instructions to help the millions of residents with limited proficiency in English gain better access to important health care information.

Assembly Bill 1073, authored by Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) passed unanimously in both the state Assembly and Senate before being signed by the governor Sunday, according to Ting’s office.

AB 1073 requires that all California pharmacists provide either their own translations or use the state Board of Pharmacy’s 15 standardized directions such as “take one pill at bedtime” or “take one pill in the morning,” which are available in Chinese, Korean, Russian, Spanish, and Vietnamese.

Previously, pharmacists have only been required to provide oral translation services over the phone, according to Ting’s office.

“Pharmacy services play a central role in modern medicine and language skills should never be a cause of complications or death,” Ting said in a statement.

“Given our language diversity, prescription information translations are an absolute necessity. After years of fighting, California will lead the nation in ensuring that all patients can understand their medications,” he said.

In 2010, the U.S. Census found that more than 6.5 million Californians speak English less than “very well.”

In addition, according to a 2014 report on language access by the City of San Francisco, 36 percent of San Francisco residents are immigrants and 45 percent of residents over the age of 5 speak a language other than English at home – mostly Chinese, Spanish, Tagalog, and Russian.

“Access to health care requires effective communication between patients and medical professionals,” Latino Coalition for a Healthy California executive director Xavier Morales said in a statement.

“AB 1073 would help limited-English proficient patients across California understand prescription drug information in their primary language, a need that can literally be a matter of life and death,” Morales said.

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