Massachusetts House Approves Bill Authorizing Nonprescription Sale of Hypodermic Needles
The Massachusetts House on Monday approved 115-37 a bill (H 4176) that would authorize the nonprescription sale of hypodermic needles and syringes to people ages 18 or older as a means of reducing the spread of HIV, hepatitis C and other bloodborne diseases in the state, the Boston Globe reports. The measure, which now heads to the state Senate, also would decriminalize the possession of a needle (Helman, Boston Globe, 11/15). In addition, pharmacists would be required to provide a brochure created by the state Department of Public Health that includes information about the proper use and disposal of syringes and needles, the risk of contracting bloodborne diseases through such devices and the state's toll-free number for AIDS and hepatitis C information (H 4176 text, 11/15). The state health department supports the measure, but Gov. Mitt Romney (R) does not, according to the Globe (Boston Globe, 11/15). "The governor's concern is that if you allow addicts easy access to the tools of the trade, you are facilitating illegal drug use," Romney press secretary Julie Teer said, adding that the governor would review the legislation if it came to his desk before making any decision on whether to veto it. State Rep. Peter Koutoujian (D), who sponsored the bill, said, "We can no longer afford to put our communities at risk out of a misplaced fear for encouraging drug use," adding, "This legislation will be effective in reducing the transmission of HIV and hepatitis C" (LeBlanc, AP/Boston Globe, 11/14). Rebecca Haag, executive director of AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts, which supports the measure, said the provision would "cost the state next to nothing," while HIV/AIDS patients are "increasingly reliant on the public sector for care." She added, "It's not just good public policy, this is sound fiscal policy" (AAC release, 11/14). About 39% of HIV cases in Massachusetts are linked to injection drug use (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/6).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.