Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Accessible Prescription Drug Labeling for the Blind

For Immediate Release

Contact: Eric Bridges
Director of Advocacy and Governmental Affairs
American Council of the Blind
Phone: (202) 467-5081

American Council of the Blind Lauds U.S. Congress for Including
Accessible Prescription Drug Labeling Language in FDA Bill
That Now Moves to the President's Desk

ARLINGTON, Va., June 26, 2012 –  Blind and visually impaired citizens will gain  independent and private access to the information contained on their prescription drug labels as the United States Senate passed S.3187, the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act.

"We are grateful that the House of Representatives and Senate, through the staunch leadership of Representative Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Senators Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), have passed legislation that will allow for a greater level of privacy and independence for blind and visually impaired Americans of all ages who take prescription medications," said Mitch Pomerantz, president of the American Council of the Blind.

More than 21.5 million Americans experience vision loss that renders them unable to read prescription drug labels or other medication information independently. With the incidence of vision loss expected to increase with the rapidly aging American population, the consequences of being unable to read prescription information pose a significant public health challenge. People who are blind or visually impaired can mistakenly consume the wrong medication, the incorrect dose, or an expired drug because they are unable to read the label or to distinguish between medicine containers.

Description of the Legislation
Under S.3187, representatives of the blind and aging communities along with pharmacies and the U.S. Access Board will convene a working group. This group will establish best practices for pharmacies to ensure that people who are blind or visually impaired have access to prescription drug labeling. The group's recommendations would provide guidance to pharmacists on actions they can take to ensure that the blind or visually impaired understand the information on their prescription and to enable independent access to that information.

The guidelines will provide pharmacies a range of options they can choose to offer consumers. Many of these options are low-cost, widely available, and compatible with equipment already in pharmacies.

After pharmacies have had the opportunity to adopt the guidelines, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) will review the degree to which pharmacies are in compliance. They will examine whether the blind or visually impaired still lack safe and independent access to prescription drug labeling and issue a report to Congress on the remaining gaps and the scope of the problem.