Davis Should Approve Bill To Allow Needle Sales Without a Prescription, Former Pharmacy Board Member Writes
Gov. Gray Davis (D) shouls sign a bill (SB 1785) that would allow adults to purchase as many as 30 hypodermic needles at licensed pharmacies without a prescription to "move public policy in the right direction," Marsha Cohen, a law professor at Hastings College of the Law, writes in a Sacramento Bee opinion piece (Cohen, Sacramento Bee, 9/12). The Legislature approved the bill, sponsored by Sen. John Vasconcellos (D-Santa Clara), late last month. State law currently requires a prescription to purchase needles, except for those used to inject adrenaline or insulin. The bill 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, 9/3). According to Cohen, the Board of Pharmacy in 1979 voted to repeal regulations that required a prescription for the sale of hypodermic needles in the state, but the decision required approval from the Legislature, which rejected the move over concerns about illicit drug use. However, Cohen, a member of the pharmacy board at the time, writes that illicit drug users never "miss a fix for a lack of needle." Although "clean needles have not been readily available" under state law, "dirty ones have been relatively easy to find," Cohen writes. She adds, "Those without sympathy for drug abusers who get AIDS or hepatitis from dirty needles should think of all the innocent family members the drug users have infected over the years. Imagine the lives that could have been saved by a simple change in the law." Cohen concludes that "death from dirty needles can and should be stopped now, at long last," with the passage of SB 1785 (Sacramento Bee, 9/12).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.