Los Angeles Times Endorses Legislation to Allow Purchase of Needles Without a Doctor’s Prescription
A "controversial" 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 could help reduce the spread of diseases such as hepatitis C and HIV, according to a Los Angeles Times editorial (Los Angeles Times, 5/29). State law currently requires a prescription to purchase needles, except for those used to inject adrenaline or insulin. The bill, which passed 21-12 last week, 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). However, some lawmakers in the Assembly, who "say that providing clean needles would only encourage criminal drug use," have "vowed" to oppose the legislation. According to the Times, "They are willing to write off those deaths and dollars as the price of addiction. But that behavior, too, strikes us as irresponsible." Although "prohibiting everyone from abusing drugs would end drug abuse" and the "reckless spread of disease" in an "ideal world," the editorial points out that in "reality as it now stands," illicit drug "addicts are going to shoot up." The Times concludes, "That is the sad fate of most junkies. But with help from responsible members of society, death by infectious disease need not be" (Los Angeles Times, 5/29).
An Orange County Register editorial also supports SB 1785. According to the Register, the bill represents "one of the most constructive approaches to disease control ... that has been proposed in years." The editorial points out that despite the state's current law against the sale of needles without a prescription, "addicts still use illicit drugs, often sharing needles or using 'dirty' needles that transmit hepatitis, [HIV] and other blood-borne diseases" -- and taxpayers "often get stuck with the costs of caring for these people." The Register says that the legislation could help address the problem, concluding, "The Senate was wise to pass this bill. The Assembly should pass it, and the governor should sign it as quickly as possible" (Orange County Register, 5/29).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.