April 11, 2005
Eileen Shields, Public Information Officer, 415/554-2507
Pharmacies to Sell Syringes Without a Prescription
Legislation Takes Effect Tuesday
San Francisco, CA—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.”