Israel: Starting May 1, 2013, Pharmaceutical companies will be fined for selling prescription drugs in packages which have not been translated into Arabic and Russian. An existing piece of legislation establishes that package information of all prescription drugs should be in Hebrew, English, and now Arabic and Russian as well. According to a proposal by the Israeli Health Minister, Yael German, companies will have to pay between NIS 30,000 (around 8,400 US dollars) to NIS 60,000 (around 16,800 US dollars) each time they delay the translations for over three months. The ministry has decided that while waiting for the companies to catch up, packages which are still lacking the translated information will continue to be sold.
Two Sides of the Argument
The law imposing the economic penalties was approved by Knesset’s Labor, Welfare and Health Committee on April 29, 2013. The reason why the fines are being imposed lies on the belief that pharmaceutical companies have been disregarding the older piece of legislation that makes the translations of the packaging into Arabic and Russian obligatory. Health Minister German states that almost two years is enough time to prepare for the change, even though the companies express they did not have enough time to complete the process. Daniel Berman, head of Pharma-Israel and representative of the drug companies, said that even though 12 million packages have already been translated to cover more than 200 drugs, there are still many to go. Pharmaceutical companies warned the ministry that there will be shortage of certain prescription drugs unless the deadline is postponed.
Coping with the Consequences
Yael German says the money acquired as a result of the fine will be dedicated to aiding the Arabic and Russian speaking sector of the population. This aid will be in the form of a website with information about drugs and their specific purposes and access to Russian and Arabic speaking pharmacists that can answer citizens’ questions. According to German, this service will cost NIS 8 million (2.2 million US dollars).
The Israeli Health Minister blames the delay on the drug companies who ignored the original translation regulations and stated that, because she knows the companies could have done better, she is not willing to make the situation any easier for them, for example by postponing the deadline.