Pharmacy board approves small type for drug labels

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In the end, supporters of smaller type won big. The state pharmacy board voted Thursday to adopt a new standard for the type size on prescription drug labels.

The new rules are supported by industry and opposed by consumer and senior advocates, who had pushed to require pharmacies to print key drug label information, such as the medicine’s name and instructions, in a larger type size.

“People need to be able to see what’s in their prescription bottle,” said Marty Martinez, policy director at the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network, who attended Thursday’s board meeting in Loma Linda. “If patients don’t understand how much of a medicine to take, or take the wrong medicine it ... jeopardizes patients’ safety.”

The public sent more than 1,000 pages of letters to the board, urging the adoption of a larger text requirement on drug labels. It is the most letters the board has ever received on a topic, the panel’s executive officer, Virginia Herold, has said.


The California Board of Pharmacy had been poised, in January, to adopted the larger type size. But the day before the vote, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed a drugstore executive to the panel, who cast the decisive vote to kill the plan, The Times reported.

The California Retailers Assn., a major Schwarzenegger donor, had lobbied heavily against the large type size, saying it would cause drug bottle to balloon, adding costs to consumers.

The pharmacy board ratified the smaller type size Thursday, though it added a provision to allow customers to request a larger type size from their pharmacist, said Russ Heimerich of the Department of Consumer Affairs.

State law requires a 15-day waiting period before the amended regulation can be officially adopted by the board.

--Shane Goldmacher in Sacramento