Pennsylvania: Restrictions Lifted on Sale of Needles
September 23, 2009
The Pennsylvania Board of Pharmacy has lifted its restriction on non-prescription sales of hypodermic needles, effective Sept. 12. The board changed the policy in an effort to reduce the risk of blood-borne infections spreading through needle-sharing among injection drug users (IDUs).
Drug store customers can purchase as many syringes as needed, though the products will still be behind the counter and sold under a pharmacist's supervision. There is no age restriction. Pharmacists are not required to sell syringes to people lacking prescriptions, said Leslie Amoros of Pennsylvania's Department of State, which oversees regulatory boards. "This is not a mandate to pharmacists," Amoros said. "But based on scientific study, it's a good step forward to improve the public's health."
The Pennsylvania Pharmacists Association advocated syringe deregulation in a letter to the board in 2007, but the issue is still one on which pharmacists are divided.
"I just don't agree with the rationale behind it: purposeful purchasing for illegal use," said John Hinkle of Hinkle's Pharmacy in Columbia. "When people are reusing needles, there's an opportunity to spread diseases," said Herman Glassman at Queen Pharmacy in Lancaster, who supports the board's move.
Harm reduction remains a legal ambiguity. Despite the new regulation, the distribution and possession of a syringe for injecting illegal drugs remains a crime in most of the state. Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have special permission to operate needle exchanges, and they have program-related exemptions from paraphernalia laws. For IDUs outside of these cities, the pharmacy sales will be especially important, said Ronda Goldfein of the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania.
"One of the terrible consequences of heroin addiction is that people hide their disease, they don't get proper medical care and they end up sharing needles," said Adam Kegley, head of Addiction Recovery Systems of Lancaster, a methadone clinic.
Intelligencer Journal/New Era (Lancaster)
09.18.2009; Jeff Hawkes
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.