by Kim Charlson
Today, more than any other time in history, there are many medical advances and prescription medications to help us manage chronic conditions and to feel better. A new study from Mayo Clinic researchers reveals that seven out of 10 Americans take at least one prescription drug. More than half of Americans take two prescription medications, and 20 percent of Americans are on at least five prescription medications.
People who are blind or visually impaired may have even more medications due to using eye-related medicines, and having other medical conditions such as diabetes, which are more closely associated with vision loss.
Using prescription drugs has some additional complications for people with visual impairments. One major issue that has to be resolved, and the most important in my view, is identifying which of your medications is which and how to keep them all straight. You can only expect to rely on your memory so far, and if you don’t feel well, that probably isn’t the time to rely on your memory to determine which medication bottle is which.
There are many ways people can label their medication bottles to identify them – you might use a braille label, a large print label or sticker of a different color. You may be fortunate to have a talking prescription solution that you like, or you rely on tactile methods like a rubber band or Velcro dot or other shape sticker. Whichever method you use, you probably only know the name of the medication, but you also have to remember how many times a day you are supposed to take it and whether it is with or without food, etc. And then what about the availability of accessible information about the medication itself – side effects and proper usage instructions?
ACB believes that having access to this type of health-related information is essential for people who are blind or visually impaired to manage our own health care independently and safely. In mid-March, ACB, along with our advocacy partners the American Foundation for the Blind and the California Council of the Blind, announced an agreement with CVS/pharmacy. They will now provide ScripTalk talking labels for prescriptions ordered for home delivery through its online pharmacy program.
ScripTalk labels provide a safe and convenient way to access information on prescription labels for individuals who cannot read standard print. These labels are free to CVS.com pharmacy customers who are blind or visually impaired. Customers can also obtain a free ScripTalk reader from En-Vision America that will enable them to listen to the information on the ScripTalk label.
According to the official press release announcing this agreement, CVS’ Josh Flum, senior vice president of retail pharmacy, stated, “We are pleased to offer the ScripTalk service to our online pharmacy customers who are visually impaired. Enhancing access to important information about prescriptions is in keeping with our purpose of helping people on their path to better health.”
This ground-breaking settlement was the result of collaboration between ACB and its advocacy partners, CVS and California-based attorneys Lainey Feingold and Linda Dardarian. This agreement is a positive step that allows for a greater level of privacy, safety, and independence for blind and visually impaired Americans of all ages who take prescription medications.
“The lack of accessible labels on prescription drug containers puts people with vision loss at serious risk of medication mishaps,” said Paul Schroeder, Vice President of Programs & Policy at the American Foundation for the Blind. “We applaud CVS/pharmacy for taking steps to provide speech access to label information for customers with vision loss along with its willingness to evaluate methods to improve large print labels.”
"The California Council of the Blind applauds CVS's willingness to offer access to the information on prescription medication labels. As a result of this initiative, persons who are blind or visually impaired who use CVS mail order to fill their prescription needs will have the same direct, and independent access to label information as do sighted customers," stated Donna Pomerantz, immediate past president of the California Council of the Blind.
To request the labels with a prescription ordered through cvs.com, the number to call is 1-888-861-4363. Questions about the ScripTalk system should be directed to En-Vision America at 1-800-890-1180. It is recommended that you reach out to cvs.com first. General information about CVS/pharmacy and CVS Caremark is available at http://info.cvscaremark.com.
CVS.COM, Caremark and CVS/pharmacy, while they have one parent company, operate as three entirely separate businesses. This agreement covers CVS.com mail-order only; however, we have been in contact with CVS Caremark and hope to extend the accessible prescription initiative to the Caremark side of the corporation as well. Anyone interested in obtaining talking prescription containers from Caremark should e-mail Lainey Feingold at [email protected] or call (510) 548-5062.
This settlement is a tremendous national commitment by CVS, and ACB will continue talking about other access possibilities moving forward. I am personally very excited to have ACB working with CVS on this nationwide talking prescription program. I believe that this is just one more step in putting the issue of accessible prescription labeling on the map for serious attention by companies, corporations and government alike. Stay tuned for more positive announcements in this area in the near future. In the meantime, take steps in your life to have accessible prescription labels and know what medications you are taking every day. Stay safe!