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If you speak only Spanish, best of luck with that prescription drug

May 30, 2009 |  7:13 am

Pills Getting a prescription filled doesn't do much good if you don't know how or when to take the drug.

A new study from Northwestern University suggests how un-illuminating many pharmacy-counter exchanges might be for those who speak only Spanish. Researchers there surveyed pharmacies in Texas and Colorado (which have had, for some time, large Latino populations) and Georgia and North Carolina (which have burgeoning Latino populations).

Of 764 pharmacies, only 43.3% could solidly offer instructions in Spanish, 21.7% offered some translation services and 34.9% offered no such  services.

The Northwestern news release. The journal abstract, in the June issue of the journal Medical Care. Y Manual Merck de información médica para el hogar.

The abstract concludes: "The majority of pharmacies surveyed offered limited or no translation services. Lack of translation services is not isolated to rural areas or locations with a marginal Latino population. Spanish-speaking patients encounter barriers to acquiring instructions that support the safe and effective use of medications."

— Tami Dennis

Photo: Taking prescription drugs, such as the antidepressant Effexor, requires guidance.

Credit: Getty Images

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Comments (4)

This doesn't surprise me at all. Both of my parents (one Polish and the other Canadian) and my wife who is Portuguese, none of whom spoke English when they came to the United States, realized early on that learning to speak, read and write English was the key to succeeding in the United States and that still remains true to this day. Unfortunately, there are far too many parents that not only hold themselves back but also do their children a great disservice by not learning the language and using it primarily in their households. I pray their stubbornness and pride does not cause anyone harm with their prescription drugs.

When visiting Mexico I noticed their Rx's are not translated to English, and I would not expect them to be. Spanish is their language, right? Where is this a problem? I'm sorry if I seem callous here, but last I checked English was the language spoken in America.

I agree with the previous commentators. I really do not care about anyone who lives in this country and thinks the rest of us have to forfeit to them. This appears to be an issue pretty much for the hispanic population in our country. It is an insult to the large number of immigrants from elsewhere in the world who come here, but realize the importance of learning english, and pursue it. I have had enough of pandering to the illiterate hispanics who come to our country and expect it to be the way they want.

Are we forgetting about the physicians writing the prescriptions? They should be providing the patients with the instructions needed for whatever medications they are prescribing. Are they also "required" to speak Spanish?


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