Illinois Governor Signs Into Law Bill That Would Allow Hypodermic Needle Purchases Without Prescriptions
Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) on Friday signed into law a bill (SB 880) that will allow anyone age 18 and older to buy hypodermic needles without a prescription, the Chicago Tribune reports (Parsons, Chicago Tribune, 7/27). The law will allow individuals to purchase up to 20 needles at a time from a pharmacy. The pharmacy is required to offer the buyer educational materials on drug treatment and safe needle disposal. The Illinois Department of Public Health will pay for the educational brochures, which will cost approximately $100,000 in the first year. Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D), a sponsor of the bill, said that the measure could reduce the state's rate of mother-to-child HIV transmission, because 96% of all HIV-positive infants are born to a parent who was infected from dirty needles (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/15). "You can recover from drug addiction, but you cannot recover from AIDS," Feigenholtz said, adding, "We want to encourage drug users to get into recovery, but, until they're ready, we want to make sure they're not dying of AIDS" (Chicago Tribune, 7/27). More than 40 studies have shown that access to sterile syringes through needle-exchange programs and through non-prescription pharmacy sales helps to slow the spread of HIV and other bloodborne diseases without increasing drug use, according to an AIDS Foundation of Chicago release (AFC release, 7/25). Opponents of the bill argue that the measure will encourage drug use and that it is unlikely that injection drug users will bother to buy needles at a drugstore (Chicago Tribune, 7/27). Opponents also said that putting more needles into circulation could increase the risk of used needles being abandoned in public places, putting others at risk of infection (Associated Press, 7/25). With the new law, only five states -- California, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Pennsylvania -- require a prescription to buy needles (AFC release, 7/25).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.