Law Allowing Pharmacists in San Francisco To Sell Syringes Without a Prescription Takes Effect
Pharmacists in San Francisco are permitted to sell syringes to adults without a prescription under an ordinance that took effect Tuesday, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
Under a state law (SB 1159) that took effect Jan. 1, cities and counties can permit pharmacies to sell syringes to injection drug users as part of a demonstration project intended to slow the spread of HIV and hepatitis (Herel, San Francisco Chronicle, 4/12).
Contra Costa County in January became the first county in the state to approve the sale of syringes without prescriptions (California Healthline, 1/6). The Alameda County Board of Supervisors on March 29 also unanimously approved a similar ordinance (California Healthline, 3/30).
Under the new San Francisco law, pharmacies are permitted provide as many as 10 syringes at a time to anyone ages 18 or older, as long as the pharmacies provide written or oral information on the testing and treatment of HIV and hepatitis C.
Supervisor Bevan Dufty estimates that about 20,000 injection drug users live in San Francisco, 20% of whom are HIV-positive and 80% of whom carry the hepatitis C virus (California Healthline, 2/24).
Syringes typically cost about 50 cents each. Under the law, participating pharmacies must be licensed and registered with the city, but customers need not provide their names.
Pharmacists also must provide customers with information on testing and treatment for HIV and hepatitis C and no-cost containers to hold used syringes.
All Walgreens stores in the city will be part of the program (San Francisco Chronicle, 4/12).
Alameda and Contra Costa counties "should be commended" for passing laws allowing pharmacists to dispense syringes without a prescription and also for "recognizing the immediate and real benefit this will provide for public health," a Pleasanton Argus editorial states.
Implementing needle-exchange programs "will save the taxpaying public money by reducing the number" of people who contract HIV or other bloodborne diseases through the sharing of contaminated needles, the editorial continues.
"While we agree treatment of drug abuse is the ultimate prevention, the reality is that our counties are the home to thousands and thousands" of injection drug users who "accelerate the spread of HIV and other diseases through the sharing of dirty needles," the editorial concludes (Pleasanton Argus, 4/9).