Talking Pill Bottles and Radio Frequency Identification Tags: Process Starts in 2013 for Guidelines on Access to Prescription Information

December 26, 2012. The Food and Drug Act was amended in July 2012 by the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act (Section 904), which included some accessibility requirements to ensure Access to Drug Labels. A working group has been formed by the U.S. Access Board to work on this initiative, a process that should result in a report to the Congress by September 30, 2016. The working group is charged with making recommendations about how best to reduce the barriers experienced by blind and visually-impaired individuals, and elderly persons, to independently and privately accessing the significant information found on prescription drug container labels.

More than 21.5 million Americans experience vision loss that renders them unable to read prescription drug labels or other medication information independently and privately. With the incidence of vision loss expected to increase with the rapidly aging American population, the consequences of being unable to read prescription information pose a significant public health challenge. People who are blind or visually impaired can mistakenly consume the wrong medication, the incorrect dose, or an expired drug because they are unable to read the label or to distinguish between medicine containers.  The stakeholder group working to ameliorate this situation includes representatives from advocacy organizations and from industry, including:

  • American Council of the Blind (ACB)
  • American Foundation for the Blind (AFB)
  • AARP
  • Blinded Veterans Association )
  • Council of Citizens with Low Vision International (CCLVI)
  • CVS/ Caremark
  • Express Scripts
  • Metro Washington Association of the Deaf Blind
  • National Community Pharmacists Association
  • National Council on Aging
  • National Council on Independent Living (NCIL)
  • National Council on Patient Information and Education
  • National Federation of the Blind
  • Rite Aid
  • Target
  • U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention
  • Wal-Mart
  • Walgreens

The working group will develop best practices for pharmacies on how to provide independent access to prescription drug container labels. Various alternatives will be explored, including braille, large print labels, and auditory technologies such as “talking bottles” and radio frequency identification tags.  While the US Access Board is charged with the working group recommendations, the law also calls upon the National Council on Disability to conduct an informational and educational campaign in cooperation with the stakeholder working group to inform the public, including people with disabilities and pharmacists, of the best practices.

For further information, contact Susan Crawford at the US Access Board via Email crawford@access-board.gov or Tel 202-272-0029 or TTY 202-272-0082.   To follow along, anyone can sign up for Access Board updates on this topic here.  For futher advocacy information, contact Eric Bridges, Director of Advocacy and Governmental Affairs, American Council of the Blind, Tel 202-467-5081 or E-mail ebridges@acb.org