Three Years After Legalization of Nonprescription Pharmacy Syringe Sales in California

Where Are We Now?

Published in: Journal of Urban Health, v. 87, no. 4, July 2010, p. 576-585

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2009

by Richard S Garfein, Thomas J. Stopka, Patricia B Pavlinac, Alessandra Ross, B. Karen Haye, Elise D Riley, Ricky N. Bluthenthal

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In January 2005, passage of California Senate Bill 1159 enabled California's county or city governments to establish disease prevention demonstration projects (DPDPs) through which pharmacies could subsequently register to legally sell up to 10 syringes to adults without a prescription. California's 61 local health jurisdictions (LHJs) were surveyed annually in 2005-2007 to monitor the progress of DPDP implementation and assess program coverage, facilitators, and barriers. Completed surveys were returned by mail, fax, e-mail, phone, or internet. We analyzed 2007 survey data to describe current DPDP status; data from all years were analyzed for trends in approval and implementation status. By 2007, 17 (27.9%) LHJs approved DPDPs, of which 14 (82.4%) had registered 532 (17.8%) of the 2,987 pharmacies in these 14 LHJs. Although only three LHJs added DPDPs since 2006, the number of registered pharmacies increased 102% from 263 previously reported. Among the LHJs without approved DPDPs in 2007, one (2.3%) was in the approval process, seven (16.3%) planned to seek approval, and 35 (81.4%) reported no plans to seek approval. Of 35 LHJs not planning to seek approval, the top four reasons were: limited health department time (40%) or interest (34%), pharmacy disinterest (31%), and law enforcement opposition (26%). Among eight LHJs pursuing approval, the main barriers were "time management" (13%), educating stakeholders (13%), and enlisting pharmacy participation (13%). The17 LHJs with DPDP represent 52% of California's residents; they included 62% of persons living with HIV and 59% of IDU-related HIV cases, suggesting that many LHJs with significant numbers of HIV cases have approved DPDPs. Outcome studies are needed to determine whether SB 1159 had the desired impact on increasing syringe access and reducing blood-borne viral infection risk among California IDUs.

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