Virginia HB 516 Heads to Floor Vote

Virginia HB 516 Passes Subcommittee and Committee and Heads to Floor Vote

February 8, 2024 

A contingent of eight pharmacists were present representing the Virginia Pharmacy Association, Kaiser Permanente, Virginia Association of Chain Drug Stores, Epic Pharmacies (community pharmacy advocacy group), Virginia Food Industry Association, and the Virginia Society of Health System Pharmacists who all opposed accessible prescription labeling legislation. A few proposed alternatives including a Board of Pharmacy work group and wording that would allow the Board of Pharmacy to decide on the parameters of the regulations rather than codifying them.

Bonnie O'Day, legislative chair of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia along with Stewart Prost and Shannon Britt of the Tidewater chapter, testified in support of the bill and demonstrated how talking prescription labels work.  Bonnie concluded her remarks saying, "I am extremely disappointed that the Board of Pharmacy and all of the pharmacists have come out against this bill with the very low cost it will take to implement it. I also oppose the substitute amendment that has been proposed. It is obvious that the Board of Pharmacy and all the pharmacists that have spoken today oppose the bill and think every thing is fine the way it is, so if you so establish some kind of study group, which I hope you do not, please find an independent body to conduct the research."

Several references were made throughout the hearing to the Virginia Board of Pharmacy HB2147 work group on translated and accessible prescription labeling in which no stakeholders or affected community members were included in the discussion.  The exact wording of HB2147 tasked them with identifying the "barriers" to providing translation and interpretation services, and that is exactly and only what they did. The resulting report from that discussion can be found here:

Delegate Price, who was chairing the conversation offered the following comment: "I would just say, if you are in a work group and you find yourself around a table that does not have the affected community, then you know the room is not complete--this is something that we need to accept as the norm; folks need to be--and end the conversation."

Delegate Hope, sponsor of the bill concluded his remarks saying: "...This is about saving people's lives. I think that was demonstrated with the two different pill bottles [eye drops] that look exactly the same. Mistakes can be made. And we need to move on this.  I know there is a substitute that the staff attorney has, I don't know what the committee's will is.  I'd like to have a bill. I'd like to have the bill that is before you; but if the subcommittee wants to go a different route--I will say this--if we go the substitute option, we have to watch what comes out of this process. Because we will - I disagree with the comments that were said that we don't need to clutter up the statues with this.  Clearly there is a need.  Clearly someone needs to be told that we have to have this accessibility option for people who are vision impaired.  It's clear the need has been expressed. Either way, we act on this bill, or if we do the substitute, we have to come back here and make sure that this actually happens."

The original bill language was recommended to be reported out of committee 5-2 and passed the full committee on February 8, 2024 with 17 yea to 5 nay

Link to view the full Subcommittee Testimony: