Senate Approves Bill Allowing Syringe Sales Without Prescriptions
The Senate yesterday voted 21-10 to approve a bill (SB 774) that would allow pharmacists to sell up to 30 syringes per transaction without a prescription, the Sacramento Bee reports. The bill passed with the minimum number of required votes, as it did in the Assembly on Tuesday on a 41-33 vote, and it has been sent to Gov. Gray Davis (D) (Fletcher, Sacramento Bee, 9/5). If approved, the measure would change current California law, which requires a prescription to purchase syringes, except when they are used to inject adrenaline or insulin. Last year, Davis vetoed a similar measure partly because it did not require a one-on-one needle exchange, which is currently required under already authorized needle distribution programs (California Healthline, 10/4/02). The bill would address that concern, as well as some others Davis raised last year, by requiring participating pharmacies to offer on-site syringe disposal, needle mail-back programs or referrals to disposal centers and by setting a sunset date so the program will need to be reauthorized by lawmakers in 2007 to continue (Sacramento Bee, 9/5). The new measure also includes plans for the Office of AIDS to evaluate the program's efficacy (Halper/Ingram, Los Angeles Times, 9/5). If approved, California would become the 46th state to allow needle sales without a prescription.
Half of the state's 600,000 hepatitis C cases and 19% of its more than 124,000 HIV cases are related to needle sharing, according to the Department of Health Services. Glenn Backes of the Drug Policy Alliance said studies show that in cities where drug addicts have access to clean needles, drug use and crime rates are similar to other cities, but the spread of diseases linked to needle sharing is reduced by 50%. "We must face the reality that persons who are addicts are going to shoot up, and we should not have a state policy that makes that a death sentence," Sen. John Vasconcellos (D-Santa Clara), the bill's author, said (Sacramento Bee, 9/5). However, Assembly member Jay La Suer (R-La Mesa) said the bill would send a "terrible message" that it is "OK to use drugs as long as you have a clean needle" (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 9/2).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.