Need Prescription Instructions in Tagalog? Governor Jerry Brown Says “Walang Problema”

Come 2016, pharmacies all over California will be required to provide translations of medical labels and prescription instructions into five other languages other than English, if requested. The bill aims to help California’s population of residents with limited English proficiency gain easier access to needed healthcare and pharmaceuticals. Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 1073 (AB1073) on October 11, 2015, after it unanimously passed both the state Assembly and Senate.

AB1073 requires pharmacies to provide their own translations of English medical labels and prescription instructions into Spanish, Tagalog, Chinese, Vietnamese, or Korean when requested by patients or their caregivers. If they cannot provide their own translations, they must use the state Board of Pharmacy’s 15 standardized directions such as “take one pill in the morning” or “take one pill at bedtime.” These directions are available in Chinese, Korean, Russian, Spanish, and Vietnamese.

This new bill supplements another existing requirement where pharmacists need to offer free interpreting services for non-English speakers.

Slator covered AB1073 when it first reached the point where it needed only the governor’s signature to pass:

The bill aims to maximize the capability of pharmacies to provide healthcare to non-English speaking residents of the state. There is, however, the issue of necessity and the complication brought about by dialects. For instance: one out of every two Filipinos speak English (56.63%) and English is in fact listed as a national language alongside “Filipino.” Furthermore, Filipinos who are not proficient in English will not necessarily be proficient in Tagalog. The national language is indeed heavily based on Tagalog, but it is just one of the country’s 120 to 175 spoken dialects. They might likely be fluent in one of the over 20 other regional dialects in the country, none of which are indicated in the proposed bill.

The text of AB-1073 Pharmacy: prescription drug labels can be found here.