California Assembly Health Committee Will Consider Bill to Allow Over-the-Counter Needle Sales
The California Assembly Health Committee today will consider a bill (SB 1785) that would allow adults to buy up to 30 hypodermic needles at a time at licensed pharmacies without a doctor's prescription, the Los Angeles Times reports. Current state law requires a prescription to buy needles unless they are used to inject adrenaline or insulin (Pacio, Los Angeles Times, 6/18). California would join 44 other states with similar laws if the bill, which has already cleared the Senate, is signed. However, the bill's prospects in the Assembly are not clear because the chamber previously defeated a similar bill that was considered by its health committee (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/24). Health care organizations, pharmacies and other supporters say the bill would reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B and C and could save the state "millions" of dollars in health care costs by decreasing the incidence of shared needle usage. However, opponents contend that the bill would allow for "easy access" to needles and would "condon[e]" drug use. They also object to the fact that dirty needles would not have to be exchanged for clean ones. "In a needle exchange, there's government oversight. There you can do other things designed to intervene in someone's drug habit. At Long's drugstore, Rite Aid, Walgreens, or the pharmacies in grocery stores, there is no oversight," John Lovell, legislative counsel for the California Narcotic Officers' Association, said (Los Angeles Times, 6/18).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.