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Consumer Safety the Focus of New Regulations for Pharmacies

Labels to feature larger type; pharmacies to provide interpretive language services

March 4, 2011
Kimberly Brown – (916) 574-8167

SACRAMENTO - Coinciding with National Consumer Protection Week, March 6 - 12, the California State Board of Pharmacy wants consumers to know that it will soon be easier to read the labels on their prescription drug medications. New regulations require pharmacies to use a larger typeface in an effort to reduce the number of medication errors caused by misreading the label. In addition, consumers with little or no English proficiency will be able to receive oral interpretive services at pharmacies for help in understanding how to take their medications.

The new regulations took effect on January 1, 2011, and pharmacies have been converting to the new format. California is the first state to establish requirements for prescription drug labels that give prominence to the information most important to consumers.

Labels must now feature a larger typeface–a minimum of 10-point typeface must be used and consumers may request 12-point type. Labels also must display key information in a set order: patient's name, drug name and strength, directions for use, and purpose of the medication, if stated on the prescription. To enhance visibility, the information may be bolded, highlighted in color, or set off by white space for ease of reading.

"The patient-centered label is designed to help cut down on medication errors," said Stan Weisser, Board of Pharmacy President. "We believe having the information prominently displayed in a standardized order on the label will help ensure medications are used safely and appropriately."

For consumers with little or no English proficiency, the new regulations require pharmacies to provide an oral translation of a medication's directions for use in a patient's language if interpretive services in such language are available. Translation services may be provided in person or by phone, but those services must be provided by the pharmacy during all hours that the pharmacy is open.

Before developing the new regulations, the Board of Pharmacy surveyed the public to determine what improvements to labels were most wanted by consumers. Over sixty percent indicated a preference for larger font size and bolder type.

Samples of a new prescription bottle label are posted on the Board of Pharmacy's web site, For more information on prescription drug safety, consumers are urged to watch the Board's video, "Right Drug, Right Dose," which is posted on the Department of Consumer Affairs' YouTube channel.

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