Calif. bill would allow over-the-counter sales of syringes

A measure is moving through the California Legislature would allow pharmacists to sell syringes and needles without a prescription.

According to the California Department of public health, 3.2 million Americans are infected by Hepatitis C. The infection is caused by blood to blood contact commonly associated with dirty needles used for drug injections. The bill being heard by lawmakers would expand access to sterile needles to help curb the spread of diseases.

"We see it as a good public health measure," California Pharmacists Association CEO Jon Roth said. "The cost to treat, for example, a patient with HIV can be upwards of $600,000 or more depending on their lifespan. And so simply providing clean needles is a safe cost effective way that doesn't contribute to increasing crime but actually helps reduce infectious diseases, and we see pharmacists as a key important partner in that."

State law currently limits the amount of syringes pharmacies can sell to 30 at a time but that law is set to expire at the end of the year. The new legislation would also remove the cap on the number of needles that can be sold.

Critics say allowing more syringes enables drug users.

"In previous studies between 2005 and 2010, some counties had pilot programs to provide clean syringes to drug addicts and what they found is number one, crime did not increase and number two, the transmission of HIV and Hepatitis C decreased," countered Roth.

Assembly Bill 1743 passed on a 45-28 vote. It now moves to the Senate.


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