Alameda County, Calif., Board of Supervisors Approves Resolution To Allow Pharmacies To Sell Syringes Without Prescriptions
The Alameda County, Calif., Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution to allow pharmacists to sell syringes without a prescription, the Oakland Tribune reports (Vesely, Oakland Tribune, 3/30). Under a state law (SB 1159) that went into effect Jan. 1, cities and counties in California can authorize pharmacies to sell up to 10 sterile syringes at a time to an adult without a prescription. California law previously required prescriptions to purchase syringes, except when used to inject adrenaline or insulin. Under the new law, the state Department of Health Services is responsible for evaluating local syringe sales and must report back to the state Legislature, and pharmacies selling syringes without prescriptions must register with their county health department. Pharmacies also must provide educational and referral information and written and verbal counseling to people purchasing syringes without a prescription (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/11). The county Office of AIDS Administration will maintain the list of participating pharmacies and provide them with information to distribute to customers receiving needles. Alameda County Public Health Officer Anthony Iton said, "When injection drug users are unable to buy clean syringes, they resort to sharing dirty ones," adding, "This law will prevent many cases of HIV and hepatitis C infection and ultimately will save many lives." Iton said that about 25% of HIV cases in the county can be attributed to sharing used needles, and county health officials say at least 26,000 of the county's 36,000 residents who have contracted hepatitis C were infected with the virus through using dirty needles, the Tribune reports. According to the state health department, 24,000 people in California contracted HIV through needle sharing as of 2002 (Oakland Tribune, 3/30).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.