Illinois House Approves Bill That Would Allow Hypodermic Needle Purchases Without Prescriptions
The Illinois House on Tuesday approved 70-48 a bill (HB 880) that would allow individuals to purchase hypodermic needles from pharmacies without a prescription, the Chicago Sun-Times reports (Wetterich, Chicago Sun-Times, 5/14). The state Senate in March 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 HIV/AIDS Report, 4/28). The measure could reduce vertical HIV transmission because 96% of all HIV-positive infants are born to a parent who was infected from dirty needles, according to Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D). She added, "We can virtually eliminate pediatric HIV transmission" by passing this bill. Opponents of the measure said that it would encourage drug use and that the needles could "end up on the streets and [be] a hazard to others," the Sun-Times reports. Rep. Mary Flowers (D) said, "We're asking irresponsible people to do something responsible. The responsible thing would be to ask [Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D)] to give more money for drug prevention" (Chicago Sun-Times, 5/14). Some HIV/AIDS advocates lauded the bill. Mark Ishaug, executive director of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, said, "This is the most significant piece of HIV prevention legislation to pass in Illinois in over a decade. It will literally save the lives of thousands of men, women and children" (AIDS Foundation of Chicago release, 5/13). The bill next heads to the governor, who is expected to sign it, according to Blagojevich spokesperson Abby Ottenhoff, who added that the governor "sees [the measure] as an effective way of reducing AIDS and HIV and to improve the delivery of prevention services" (Chicago Sun-Times, 5/14). Other than Illinois, only four states -- California, Delaware, Massachusetts and New Jersey -- require a prescriptions to buy needles (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/28).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.