Allowing Sale of Hypodermic Needles Without Prescription Would ‘Save Lives,’ Chicago Tribune Editorial Says
An Illinois law that requires a prescription to purchase hypodermic needles and is largely based on fear that deregulation of hypodermic needle sales would encourage injection drug use "flies in the face of science, sound social policy and common sense," a Chicago Tribune editorial says, adding that the House should approve legislation (SB 880) that would allow individuals to purchase needles without a prescription (Chicago Tribune, 4/26). Last month, the Illinois Senate voted 30-24 to approve the bill, which would allow anyone age 18 or older to purchase up to 20 needles at a time from a pharmacy. The pharmacy would also have to offer the buyer educational materials on drug treatment and safe needle disposal. The Illinois Department of Public Health would pay for the materials, which would cost approximately $100,000 in the first year (Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report, 3/26). According to the Tribune, deregulating needle sales could connect pharmacists and health officials with "an otherwise underground population of addicts" and allow them "to provide crucial information when they buy or return needles," a "fleeting encounter" that could "save lives or help someone beat their drug habit." According to the Tribune, 70% of AIDS cases among women are connected with the sharing of dirty needles, and studies have shown that deregulated needle sales reduce new HIV and hepatitis infections. In addition, deregulating syringe purchases would cost taxpayers "next to nothing" and save "hundreds of thousands of [taxpayers'] dollars" by avoiding new infections, according to the Tribune. The Tribune concludes that Illinois -- which is one of only five states that requires a prescription to purchase hypodermic needles -- "ought to join the rest of the country in deregulating the sale of hypodermic needles" (Chicago Tribune, 4/26).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.