California Governor Should Sign Bill To Allow Sales of Needles Without a Prescription, HIV/AIDS Experts Say
California Gov. Gray Davis (D) should sign a bill (SB 1785) passed by the state Legislature earlier this year that would allow licensed pharmacies to sell as many as 30 syringes without a prescription to reduce rates of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C, John Perez and Philip Burgess, members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV and AIDS, write in an Orange County Register opinion piece. Citing a number of studies, Perez and Burgess say that the bill is "the most cost-effective way to reduce the rates of HIV/AIDS" and hepatitis C among intravenous drug users, people infected through sex by intravenous drug users and infants. They note that adults are "much less likely" to share dirty needles and spread diseases if they are able to buy clean syringes (Perez/Burgess, Orange County Register, 9/25). State law currently requires a prescription to purchase needles, except for those used to inject adrenaline or insulin (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/3). Under the bill, state pharmacies would be given the choice of whether to sell syringes under the law, according to Perez, political director of the United Food and Commercial Workers, and Burgess, a pharmacist. Noting that the state pays pharmacies more than $200 million per year to provide medications to "medically indigent patients" who have contracted HIV through needle use or have late-stage liver disease associated with hepatitis C, Perez and Burgess conclude, "Those of us who own and operate pharmacies would like to see a more cost-effective solution. It makes more sense to sell a 25-cent syringe and prevent a disease than collect the approximately $200,000 that is required to treat HIV or hepatitis C over a lifespan" (Orange County Register, 9/25).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.