California County Needle Programs Will Save Taxpayer Money, Improve Public Health, Editorial Says
The "simple action" of implementing needle sales programs in Alameda and Contra Costa counties in California "will save the taxpaying public money by reducing the number" of people who contract HIV or other bloodborne diseases through the sharing of contaminated needles, a Pleasanton Argus editorial says (Pleasanton Argus, 4/9). 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. The Alameda County Board of Supervisors late last month unanimously approved a resolution to allow pharmacists to sell syringes without a prescription (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/31). Contra Costa County was the first county in the state to approve OTC syringe sales (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/6). "While we agree treatment of drug abuse is the ultimate prevention, the reality is that our counties are the home to thousands and thousands" of injection drug users who "accelerate the spread of HIV and other diseases through the sharing of dirty needles," the editorial says, concluding, "Alameda and Contra Costa counties should be commended for passing such resolutions and also for recognizing the immediate and real benefit this will provide for public health" (Pleasanton Argus, 4/9).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.