Assembly Health Committee to Consider Bill Today to Allow Needle Sales Without a Doctor’s Prescription
The Assembly Health Committee today will consider a bill (SB 1785) that would allow adults to purchase as many as 30 hypodermic needles at licensed pharmacies without a doctor's prescription, the Los Angeles Times reports (Pacio, Los Angeles Times, 6/18). 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. Although 44 other states have similar laws, the Assembly Health Committee has defeated similar legislation in the past (California Healthline, 5/24). Health advocacy groups, pharmacies and other supporters have said that the bill would reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B and C and could save the state millions of dollars in health care costs through a decrease in the use of shared needles. However, opponents have said that the legislation would provide illicit drug users with "easy access" to needles and would "condone" illicit drug use. They also have pointed out that the legislation "does not mandate that dirty needles be brought in for new ones." John Lovell, legislative counsel for the California Narcotic Officers' Association, said, "In a needle exchange, there's government oversight. There you can do other things designed to intervene in someone's drug habit. At Long's drugstore, Rite Aid, Walgreens or the pharmacies in grocery stores, there is no oversight" (Los Angeles Times, 6/18).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.