Bill to Allow Sale of Needles Without a Prescription Has ‘Huge Flaw,’ Bakersfield Californian Says
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 to help reduce the spread of diseases has a "huge flaw" -- "it does not mandate an exchange," according to a Bakersfield Californian editorial (Bakersfield Californian, 6/10). 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 editorial points out that the "need for a prescription is the reason intravenous drug [users] share needles," which can increase the spread of diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C, adding that the bill would remove the "leading barrier to drug addicts' ability to use clean needles." However, the legislation, which would not require a needle exchange, "does nothing to take the infected needles off the street," the editorial says. The editorial states that most needle-exchange programs allow individuals to exchange used needles for sterile needles and provide counseling for drug users on sterilization procedures and safe sex practices to reduce the spread of HIV. According to the editorial, "without the mandate for disposal of used and infected" needles, drug users may "pass the used and infected ones on to less fortunate fellow users." The editorial concludes, "The question that has to be answered ... is whether this halfway approach compounds the problem rather than reduces it. ... As a matter of political reality, needle-exchange programs should be a local option -- but only with a true exchange and disposal requirement" (Bakersfield Californian, 6/10).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.