Gov. Schwarzenegger Could ‘Save Thousands of Lives, Millions of Dollars’ by Signing OTC Syringe Bill, Opinion Piece Says
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) could "save thousands of lives and millions of health care dollars at almost no cost to [the] state government" by signing a bill (SB 1159) that would allow local governments to authorize pharmacies to sell as many as 10 syringes to adults without a prescription, John Perez, political director of the United Food & Commercial Workers and former member of the Bush administration's Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, writes in a San Francisco Chronicle opinion piece (Perez, San Francisco Chronicle, 9/15). California law currently requires a prescription to purchase syringes, except when used to inject adrenaline or insulin (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/6). "Providing sterile syringes reduces the rates of disease without contributing to increases in drug use, drug injection or crime," Perez says, adding that "[n]umerous studies have established that when adults are allowed to buy clean syringes in exchange for used ones, they are much less likely to share dirty ones and spread diseases." Perez also says that the bill would save state tax dollars by reducing the cost of treating HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C patients. "Pharmacies are paid more than $200 million dollars a year by the state of California to provide medicines to medically indigent patients suffering from injection-related AIDS or late-stage liver disease caused by hepatitis C," Perez says, concluding, "Our bottom line is we would rather sell a 25-cent syringe and prevent a disease, than profit from needless suffering" (San Francisco Chronicle, 9/15).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.