Labels for the Visually Impaired

Imagine, for a moment, you are at the pharmacy counter with the pharmacist counseling you about your discharge medications. You have recently been discharged from the hospital with a newly-diagnosed irregular heartbeat.

This is a big deal. While you were in the hospital you were started on a blood thinning medication to help keep your blood from clotting. Your undiagnosed high blood pressure was also stabilized with the addition of 2 separate blood pressure medications. While you were there, the hospitalist also started you on a medication to help decrease your cholesterol levels. In addition, you were prescribed some medication to help decrease your level of anxiety.

While at the pharmacy counter, the pharmacist is very thorough with the consultation. You have ample time to ask questions and discuss any concerns you may have about your medications. The pharmacist hands you a hefty stack of leaflets, letting you know it would be a good idea to read through all of the medication information to make sure you completely understand your therapy.

As you are leaving, you feel relatively confident about the interaction and understand you may phone the pharmacist back at any time if you have questions about your therapy.

You make it home, sit down in your easy chair and begin to unpack your prescription bag. First, you pull out the booklet of pharmacy leaflets and begin to shuffle through them. The first page is blank, the second page is blank.  You continue through all 15 pages and they are all blank.

Your anxiety is beginning to flare and you remembered that one of the medications prescribed for you is to help decrease anxiety. You reach into your bag and begin pulling out the prescription bottles. Much to your surprise, the bottles are not labeled. You have 5 prescription bottles, all with medications filled in them, and not one of them has a label. How will you know how to take your medication?

This is what it must feel like to be blind or challenged with vision. Labels are on the bottles; however, you cannot read them. It is difficult to imagine how an elderly patient, living on their own, with some level of visual impairment, can manage their medications without some help.

In 2012, the President of the United States signed into law the FDA Safety and Innovation Act (s.3187), requiring pharmacies to provide accessible prescription drug labeling for the blind, low vision and seniors. Under Section 904 of the Act, the US Access Board, comprised of representatives of the visually impaired community as well as large pharmaceutical companies, were tasked to determine the best practices for accessible prescription drug container labels. In developing the best practices, the Access Board confirmed the use of braille, auditory means and enhanced visual means.1

The completed best practices guidelines were published in July, 2013. Their goal was to create and publish best practices 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.

Currently, 2 different companies are in the business of providing label reader options for the visually impaired. Each has a different mechanism for providing the prescription label information to the visually impaired; however, they utilize differing technologies.

AccessaMed offers a Digital Audio Label that is 2 inches tall by 1 inch wide and adheres to the prescription bottle. With a push of its button, the user hears a clear audio description of the prescription label information using text to speech software.

ScripTalk uses a solution where a tiny microchip is embedded in the label. When the prescription bottle is held over a ScripTalk reader, you simply press a button on the reader device and you hear a text to speech voice of all the information on the label.

Both of the above products provide an excellent way for those challenged with vision to listen to the important information on the prescription label. The next question is how do these individuals access the important Consumer Medication Information handed out in the form of pharmacy leaflets with their medications.

AudibleRx provides a solution where individuals may listen to the consumer medication information of their specific prescription. These sessions are designed specifically for listening and the consumer may pause, rewind, or fast forward at any time. After listening to a session, a consumer will have a clear idea of what they do and don’t know about their medications and be in a much better position to take educated questions back to their own health care provider.

If you or someone you care for is challenged with vision, take a look at these 3 options, they might just be what you are looking for.  Ask your pharmacy and other health care providers if they would consider offering these accessibility services.

Original article posted at Pharmacy Times: http://www.pharmacytimes.com/contributor/steve-leuck-pharmd/2017/10/accessible-prescription-information

References
1. United States Access Board.  Best Practices for Making Prescription Drug Container Label Information Accessible to Persons Who are Blind or Visually-Impaired or Who are Elderly.
https://www.access-board.gov/guidelines-and-standards/health-care/about-prescription-drug-container-labels/working-group-recommendations. Published July 10, 2013. Accessed October 8, 2017.

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