Contra Costa County First in State To Approve Program Under New Law Permitting Over-the-Counter Sales of Syringes
Contra Costa County to date is the only county in the state to approve a program allowing pharmacies to sell sterile syringes without a prescription to help prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C, as allowed under a law (SB 1159) that took effect Saturday, the San Jose Mercury News reports (Feder Ostrov, San Jose Mercury News, 1/4).
In September, Schwarzenegger enacted the law to create the program, which allows pharmacies to sell as many as 10 syringes to adults without a prescription. Because of an amendment to the bill that Schwarzenegger had requested, cities and counties must approve pharmacies that seek to participate in the program.
The law, introduced by Sen. John Vasconcellos (D-San Jose), decriminalizes possession of needles without a prescription and requires pharmacies to provide information about drug treatment, disease testing and safe syringe disposal. The law will expire in 2010 unless the Legislature approves legislation to extend the program (California Healthline, 9/29/04).
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, injection drug use accounts for about 20% of all reported HIV/AIDS cases in the state, making it the second-largest risk factor for developing the disease.
Officials in some Bay Area counties are still studying the new law or developing programs with law enforcement groups and pharmacists.
San Mateo County officials said they do not expect to make a recommendation regarding the law until the spring.
Santa Clara County health department spokesperson Joy Alexiou said public health experts plan to meet with pharmacists and law enforcement groups to develop a proposal for a program to present to the county board of supervisors (San Jose Mercury News, 1/4).