California Senate requires larger print for drug labels

Democratic state Sens. Noreen Evans of Santa Rosa, left, Ellen Corbett of San Leandro, right, and Carol Liu of Pasadena, standing, look over papers at the Capitol in Sacramento.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

Ever squinted to read the directions on a medicine bottle but couldn’t make out the small print?

California lawmakers have the prescription to solve that problem.

The state Senate has approved legislation requiring pharmacists to print specific, important information on prescription labels in at least 12-point type.

The bill was the idea of Senate Majority Leader Ellen M. Corbett (D-East Bay), who cited a survey by the state Board of Pharmacy that found 60% of people want larger or bolder print on prescription labels.

“SB 205 assists patients to better read the labels on their prescription bottles, since they contain critical information that can keep them safe and potentially save their lives,” Corbett said in a statement.


The bill, she added, “seeks to prevent medication use errors by simply ensuring that the patient’s name, drug’s name and strength, directions for use and the condition for which the drug was prescribed appear in at least 12 point font.”

California’s population older than age 60 is expected to increase by more than 110% by 2020, according to a report by the California Department on Aging.

The measure was opposed by the California Grocers Assn., which argued that “the typeface settings required by this bill are unworkable in a real-world setting,” given that labels are already cluttered with information required by the state.

Pharmacists may be forced to dispense medicine in oversized containers so that the label can be large enough to meet the requirements, the group warned.

The measure was sent Thursday to the Assembly for consideration.


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