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U.S. News

California: Counties Studying Law OK'ing Needle Sales

January 5, 2005

In California, local governments are deciding whether and how they will participate in a demonstration project authorized by a new law under which pharmacists can register to sell up to 10 sterile syringes and needles without a prescription to customers over age 18. State authorities will monitor the program's efficacy in preventing blood-borne diseases including hepatitis C and HIV.

Contra Costa Supervisors have approved the program -- the only county so far to do so. "It's not a panacea, just like needle exchange is not a panacea, but we think it will help some," said Wendel Brunner, Contra Costa's director of public health.

Among developments:

  • Public-health experts in Santa Clara County will soon meet with law enforcement and pharmacists to create a program proposal for consideration by county supervisors, said Joy Alexiou, county health spokesperson. San Jose Police Chief Rob Davis is open to the new law but is concerned about stray needles endangering the public.


  • San Mateo County Supervisors have been asked to reconvene a needle-exchange task force to consider pharmacy sales, but a final recommendation is not expected until the spring, said Dr. Scott Morrow, county health official.

  • Santa Cruz County health official Leslie Goodfriend said the county has not "gotten too far yet" on needle sales. But she said the prospect of approval looks good, since the county supports needle exchange programs -- "anything that can help reduce HIV/AIDS or hepatitis C."

Pharmacies are also waiting for more details. The Walgreens chain has not decided whether to participate in the program, said spokesperson Phyllis Proffer.

Over a third of U.S. AIDS cases occurred in injection drug users, their partners or children, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. In California, IV drug use accounts for 20 percent of reported AIDS cases -- the second-largest risk category.

Back to other news for January 5, 2005

Adapted from:
San Jose Mercury News
01.04.05; Barbara Feder Ostrov

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.