L.A. County Board of Supervisors Approves Resolution To Allow Pharmacies To Sell Syringes Without Prescriptions
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved 3-2 a resolution to allow pharmacies to sell up to 10 needles to a customer without a prescription, the Los Angeles Times reports. The policy -- backed by a coalition of pharmacies, health officials and HIV/AIDS advocates -- aims to curb the spread of HIV and other bloodborne diseases among injection drug users, but opponents say it gives government endorsement to illegal drug use (Leonard/Felch, Los Angeles Times, 6/15). 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. Under the 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, 3/31). Other counties in California -- including Alameda, Marin, San Francisco, Contra Costa, Santa Cruz, Yuba and Yolo -- already have approved nonprescription syringe sales under the state law (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 6/15).
L.A. County Policy
Pharmacies in all areas of Los Angeles County except Pasadena and Long Beach -- which have their own health departments -- can register with the county health department to sell the nonprescription syringes, the Times reports (Los Angeles Times, 6/15). The department plans to notify pharmacies of the policy by next month, register them to conduct the sales within two months and have nonprescription syringe sales occur by October. In addition, pharmacies that register with the department will sell packaging for the safe disposal of needles and provide information on sanitary ways to dispose of used syringes and where to seek drug-use counseling or get tested for bloodborne diseases (Shackelford, Copley News/Torrance Daily Breeze, 6/15). An estimated 14% of the 49,000 Los Angeles County residents who are living with AIDS or have died of AIDS-related causes were either injection drug users or had sexual contact with such users. Between 120,000 and 190,000 injection drug users live in the county (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 6/15).