Illinois Hypodermic Needle Access Program Awaiting Publication of Required Literature
A six-month-old Illinois program that allows anyone age 18 and older to purchase hypodermic needles without a prescription from a pharmacist still lacks the educational materials that pharmacists are required to hand out during sales transactions, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports (Skalski, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 1/10). Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) in July 2003 signed into law a bill allowing 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 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/29/03). The health department last month hired the AIDS Foundation of Chicago to make recommendations about what information to include in the literature. The foundation has until March 1 to make its recommendations, and the health department then will develop the materials and take bids for printing them. Some pharmacists are not selling needles and syringes without a doctor's prescription because they currently do not have the literature for patrons that is required by the law.
Spreading the Word
Mike Patton, executive director of the Illinois Pharmacists Association, said that more pharmacists might offer over-the-counter needles once they have the required educational materials. "It's impossible for a pharmacy to comply with the law when the literature isn't even there," he said. Health department spokesperson Tom Schafer said that the delay in distributing the materials is not hindering AIDS prevention efforts. "The fact that (drug users) actually show up at a pharmacy actually requesting clean needles underscores the fact that they already know how important it is to have clean needles to protect their health," Schafer added. Karen Reitan, director of state affairs for AFC, said that drug users are starting to spread the word that clean needles are available in some pharmacies. Schafer said that it will take at least another year to determine whether the number of HIV/AIDS cases related to injection drug use have decreased. Although opponents of the law said that over-the-counter needle sales would increase the number of discarded needles found in public places, the Chicago Department of Public Health has not seen an increase in complaints related to discarded needles, according to the Post-Dispatch (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 1/10).