Bringing accessibility to medication labels

CVSYour medications can make a major difference in your daily life — unless you can’t tell them apart.

When it comes to purchases, pharmacies like CVS, Walgreens and Rite-Aid have made accommodations for blind and visually impaired customers. Many of these stores now have tactile keypad at the front checkout counter and magnification technology or a screen reader for online shoppers.

But what about identification options for drug containers? Where do these pharmacies stand on providing their customers at the pharmacy counter with accessibility?

CVS offers Braille labels for blind and visually impaired customers through a request. Call CVS’ customer service line to file your request, and you will have your medications labeled.

However, Duane Reade and Rite-Aid do not have a corporate policy regarding medication labels for blind and visually impaired customers. Instead, they leave it to the individual stores to handle labeling, many of which do not have that option.

Walgreens offers large-print copies of prescription information about the medication name, directions, warnings and prescription numbers, according to its website. The magnified text is available in English or Spanish at local stores. However, their customer service representatives say they do not offer Braille labels.

The U.S. Access Board has pushed pharmacy representatives to develop guidance on making prescription drug labels accessible to customers with vision impairments, according to a press release. The Board is working to implement changes under a bill signed by President Barack Obama in 2012, the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act.

The Board includes representatives from AARP, Walgreens, Target, CVS and Rite-Aid, among others. Its members planned to look into Braille, large-print labels, “talking-bottle” technology and other alternative identification tags for drug containers.

In August, the Board issued a report and stated that “new guidance is now available from the Board on how to make prescription drug container access available for people with vision impairments or who are elderly.” These range from hard-copy Braille and large print labels to electronic equipment with speech recorders or digital voice capability.

It is imperative for people experiencing vision loss to have access to information about their medication, the dosage, additional instructions, side effects. Pharmacies by and large have yet to implement new accommodations for drug container identification, but at least the possibilities are being reviewed.

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About mabvi

Pressing Need The number of seniors with low vision is expected to double by 2030, as the “baby boomers” experience sight loss such as glaucoma, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration. Low vision makes it difficult to complete activities of daily living, puts elders at increased risk of falls, and complicates health care compliance. There is a pressing need for low vision services today more than ever, to ensure people with vision loss can continue to live the lives they want. Elders are the fastest-growing and most vulnerable population of persons with sight loss. Four of the five major causes of blindness are directly related to the aging process: age related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and cataracts. According to data published by the Commission for the Blind and the National Society for the Prevention of Blindness, there are an estimated 105,000 elders in Massachusetts with serious sight loss who cannot receive state-funded services because they are not “legally blind.” Nevertheless, their vision impairment is serious, and without appropriate intervention, can have a devastating impact on their independence.

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