Imagine this scenario.
You return home from the pharmacy with your prescription medications and set them out on the table to fill up your pill box. You notice that there are no labels on the bottles; there are just four bottles with pills. You remember that the pharmacist had counseled you about the medications. However, you are trying your best to remember which one was for the heart, which one was for the diabetes and which one was the pain pill. This scenario is essentially what happens when a visually impaired individual receives a prescription.
The current focus on adherence to medications, synchronization of medications and medication therapy management makes me wonder how an elderly patient, living on their own, who may have slight confusion and some level of visual impairment, can manage their medications without some help.
Is your pharmacy prepared for implementation of accessible prescription medication labels?
In 2012, the President of the United States signed into law the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Safety and Innovation Act (s.3187), requiring pharmacies to provide accessible prescription drug labeling for the blind, people with low vision and seniors. Under Section 904 of the Act, the US Access Board, composed of representatives of the visually impaired community as well as large pharmaceutical companies, were asked to determine best practices for accessible prescription drug container labels. In developing best practices, the Access Board supported the use of braille, auditory means and enhanced visual methods.
Their goal was to create and publish best practice guidelines for accessible prescription drug container labels, including "guidance to pharmacies on how to provide accessible prescription drug container labels to patients with visual impairments to enable them to manage their medications independently and privately, and have the confidence that they are taking their medications safely, securely, and as prescribed."
The completed best practices guidelines were published in July of 2013. Currently, these guidelines are just that, guidelines without regulatory enforcement or penalties for non-compliance. However, after 18 months, beginning January 2015, the Government Accountability Office will begin monitoring how well pharmacies are using these guidelines and will require that barriers to access are addressed. Pharmacies should be prepared for implementation of an accessible medication labeling option by January 2015.