Access to multilingual prescription labels and verbal translation services in California

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The number of patients with limited English proficiency is on the rise in the United States, and conveying medication information to these individuals in an effective manner is crucial to improve adherence and reduce medication errors.


To examine (1) self-reported capability for and actual provision of prescription labels or verbal medication information in languages other than English by California pharmacies and (2) characteristics of pharmacies that provide such services.


In this cross-sectional, observational study, pharmacists in charge at 552 randomly selected retail pharmacies throughout California (US) were interviewed by phone. The main outcome measures of the study were number of pharmacies that could and did provide multilingual labels (MLs) and/or offer medication information verbally in the patient’s preferred language. Chi-square tests and multivariate logistic regression analysis were used to determine associations between availability of MLs and verbal translation services and the demographic characteristics of pharmacies.


Approximately, 69% of the pharmacies surveyed could provide MLs, and 67.9% did provide MLs routinely on patient request. Verbal translation of labels or other medication information such as leaflets, pamphlets, and guides was offered to patients who requested it in 82.4% of pharmacies. Chain pharmacies reported a significantly higher capability to provide MLs than independent pharmacies (Adjusted odds ratio [AOR]=0.28; 95% confidence interval [CI]=0.19, 0.42; P<.0001). Pharmacies located in rural areas reported higher availability of MLs (AOR=5.02; 95% CI=2.00, 12.6; P<.001) than pharmacies in urban areas. Pharmacies with higher number of estimated limited English proficient (LEP) patients reported higher availability of MLs (AOR=1.03; 95% CI=1.02, 1.05; P<.0001) and verbal translations (AOR=1.07; 95% CI=1.03, 1.09; P<.0001).


There exists an unfulfilled need for providing MLs and/or verbal translations to LEP patients. Pharmacists and health care providers can fill this need to ensure appropriate medication usage and adherence and consequently reduce medication errors in this population.

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