Massachusetts Senate Passes Bill That Would Authorize Nonprescription Sale of Hypodermic Needles
The Massachusetts Senate on Wednesday voted 26-8 to pass a bill (S 1312) that would authorize the nonprescription sale of syringes to people age 18 and older as a means of reducing the spread of HIV, hepatitis C and other bloodborne diseases, the Boston Globe reports (Nichols, Boston Globe, 6/8). The state Senate last week approved the bill -- which is sponsored by state Sen. Robert O'Leary (D) -- by voice vote. The state House in November 2005 voted to approve similar legislation (H 4176), which would require pharmacists dispensing the needles 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 HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C information. The state House version of the bill also would decriminalize possession of a hypodermic needle (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/6). The state Senate version of the bill must pass in both the state House and the state Senate again for "procedural reasons" before going to Romney, according to the Globe (Boston Globe, 6/8). If the state House does not agree to amendments proposed by the state Senate, legislators might need to form a panel to create a compromise version of the bill. The state Senate has approved Senate Minority Leader Brian Lees' (R) amendment, which would require the state DPH to propose locations for needle disposal facilities. In addition, the state Senate approved an amendment by Lees that would ban needle disposal facilities at senior centers the Springfield Republican reports (Ring, Springfield Republican, 6/8). Gov. Mitt Romney (R) likely will veto the bill, his spokesperson Eric Fehrnstrom said, adding that the governor "believes that removing prescription controls on hypodermic needles ... encourages heroin use" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/6). Both the state House and state Senate versions of the bill have received enough votes that a veto by Romney would be overidden (Springfield Republican, 6/8). According to the Globe, the state public health department supports establishing needle-exchange centers in individual cities and towns (Boston Globe, 6/8). Four localities in Massachusetts -- Boston, Cambridge, Northampton and Provincetown -- have approved needle-exchange programs and about 12,500 of the nearly 18,000 people enrolled in the four programs do not reside in any of the four localities (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/2).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.