Assembly Committee Should Pass Bill to Allow Needle Sales Without a Prescription, Mercury News Says
A vote in the Assembly to defeat a Senate-passed bill (SB 1785) that would allow adults to purchase as many as 30 hypodermic needles at licensed pharmacies without a doctor's prescription "would show only that legislators are soft in the head but hard in the heart when it comes to protecting Californians" from HIV/AIDS, according to a San Jose Mercury News editorial (San Jose Mercury News, 6/17). State law currently requires a prescription to purchase needles, except for those used to inject adrenaline or insulin. The bill, which passed the Senate 21-12 last month, would require pharmacies to store syringes so that they are available only to authorized personnel and not openly available to customers. The legislation also would require pharmacists to provide an on-site safe syringe disposal program and information on drug treatment and disease prevention (California Healthline, 5/24). The California Medical Association, the California Pharmacists Association and the California Nurses Association have endorsed the bill, which the Assembly Health Committee will address Tuesday. According to the editorial, "hard-on-crime" committee members could oppose the bill for "being soft on drugs," although the U.S. Public Health Service in 1997 recommended that illicit drug users should have access to syringes without a prescription to prevent the transmission of "deadly, blood-borne diseases" such as HIV and hepatitis C. The editorial also points out that evidence from the 44 states that allow syringe sales without a prescription "shows that such laws do indeed reduce the spread of disease" and do not increase illicit drug use. The editorial concludes, "Common-sense legislation such as this should fly through the Legislature to the governor's desk for a quick signature" (San Jose Mercury News, 6/17).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.