California Senate Passes Legislation Allowing Pharmacies to Sell Sterile Syringes To Prevent Spread of HIV & Hepatitis C

Press Release May 27, 2010
Media Contact

Laura Thomas at 415-283-6366 or Tommy McDonald

California took a major step today towards preventing the spread of HIV and hepatitis C, as SB 1029 passed the California State Senate by a vote of 21 to 8. SB 1029, introduced by State Senator Leland Yee, will allow pharmacists statewide the discretion to sell up to 30 sterile syringes to an adult without prescription.

“Pharmacy syringe sales are a cost-effective public health strategy to stop transmission of hepatitis and HIV” said Laura Thomas, deputy state director for the Drug Policy Alliance. “The Senate did the right thing today, and we look forward to working with the Assembly and the Governor to make this bill a law. Sen. Yee recognized the importance of expanding pharmacy sales and took the lead on this issue.”

California is one of only three states in the U.S. that still prohibits pharmacists from selling a syringe without a prescription from a physician. Most states amended their laws in light of evidence that limited access to sterile syringes led drug users to share used ones, and that sharing syringes can transmit HIV and viral hepatitis. Study after study have found that pharmacy sales reduce HIV and hepatitis rates without increasing drug use, crime, or unsafe disposal of syringes.

“We know that pharmacy syringe sales works and that syringe access saves lives,” said Meghan Ralston, harm reduction coordinator at the Drug Policy Alliance. “California needs this law and these programs.”

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation in 2004 to create a five-year pilot to evaluate the safety and efficacy of allowing adults to purchase and possess a limited number of syringes for personal use. The pilot sunsets the last day of 2010, and unless legislation is passed this year, pharmacies in Los Angeles County, the Bay Area and other parts of the state would have to stop selling syringes without a prescription.

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

Sign up for updates from DPA.