Beginning Tuesday, April 12th, pharmacists in San Francisco will be able to sell sterile syringes without a prescription when legislation passed by the Board of Supervisors and signed by Mayor Newsom last month goes into effect.
Known as the Local Disease Prevention Demonstration Project, San Francisco’s program kicks in thanks to recently enacted State law (SB 1159, 2004) intended to control the spread of HIV and hepatitis in California.
City officials estimate that nearly 20 percent of San Francisco’s 17,000 IDUs are infected with HIV and 97 percent are infected with hepatitis C. While several needle exchange programs operate in San Francisco, approximately 13 percent of new AIDS cases reported in 2004 identified injection drug use as the main exposure category.
Before SB 1159 was passed, California is one of only six states that required a prescription to purchase sterile syringes. Limited access to sterile syringes contributes to the transmission of these infections among IDUs, their sex partners and their children.
Under the new law, licensed pharmacies that register to participate in San Francisco’s program may sell up to 10 syringes to an adult without a prescription. Participating pharmacists will provide purchasers with: information on how to access drug treatment; information on testing and treatment for HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C; and free sharps containers for safe disposal of used syringes.
Syringes retail for approximately 50 cents per syringe. All Walgreen’s Pharmacies in San Francisco have agreed to participate in this important public health program and many other community Pharmacies are expected to join the program during the next few weeks.
“This is an exciting opportunity for the business community and the public health department to join forces to prevent serious illness in San Francisco,” said Dr. Mitch Katz, Director of Public Health. “We believe this is an important Demonstration Project and I thank our community Pharmacies for their commitment to the public health.