Pharmacy Participation in Non-Prescription Syringe Sales in Los Angeles and San Francisco Counties, 2007

Published in: Journal of Urban Health, v. 87, no. 4, July 2010, p. 543-552

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2009

by Erin N Cooper, Chaka Dodson, Thomas J. Stopka, Elise D Riley, Richard S Garfein, Ricky N. Bluthenthal

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Increasing sterile syringe access for injection drug users (IDUs) is one way to prevent HIV and hepatitis C virus (HCV) transmission in this population. In 2005, California Senate Bill 1159 allowed counties to adopt the Disease Prevention Demonstration Project (DPDP). Where enacted, the DPDP allows pharmacies that register with the county to sell up to ten syringes to adults without a prescription. In the current study, we describe pharmacy participation in nonprescription syringe sales (NPSS) in two counties in California and examine factors associated with NPSS. Telephone and in-person interviews were conducted in Los Angeles (LA) and San Francisco (SF) with 238 pharmacies in 2007 (n = 67 in SF; n = 171 in LA). Quantitative survey items captured pharmacy registration with the county, pharmacy policies/practices, episodes and conditions of NPSS and refusals to sell, potential negative consequences of NPSS, and staff attitudes regarding HIV and HCV prevention for IDUs. Overall, 42% of pharmacies reported NPSS (28% in LA and 81% in SF), although only 34% had registered with the county (17% in LA and 76% in SF). Many pharmacies required proof of a medical condition (80% in LA and 30% in SF) and refused NPSS if the customer was a suspected IDU (74% in LA, 33% in SF). Few negative consequences of NPSS were reported. In multivariate logistic regression analysis, we found that the odds of NPSS were significantly higher among pharmacists who thought syringe access was important for preventing HIV among IDUs [adjusted odds ratio (AOR) = 2.95; 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.10?7.92], were chain pharmacies (AOR = 12.5; 95% CI = 4.55?33.33), and were located in SF (AOR = 4.88; 95% CI = 1.94?12.28). These results suggest that NPSS were influenced by pharmacists' perception. NPSS might be increased through greater educational efforts directed at pharmacists, particularly those in non-chain pharmacies.

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