(SACRAMENTO, CA) –Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation yesterday authored by Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), Chair of the Assembly Democratic Caucus, to help prevent syringe sharing, a leading cause for HIV/AIDS and hepatitis, by allowing adults to purchase an unlimited number of syringes at pharmacies without a prescription.
“It has taken many years to win this fight but California will finally start treating syringe access as a public health issue,” said Ting. "We dithered while the rest of the nation aggressively expanded access to save lives and tax dollars. That makes this victory both exciting and overdue. This is a landmark reform for California.”
Sponsored by the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Drug Policy Alliance, Assembly Bill (AB) 1743 allows pharmacists to sell an unlimited number of syringes to adults without a prescription until January 1, 2021. Participating pharmacists must meet uniform requirements for the provision of informational materials about safe syringe disposal, drug treatment access, and options for testing and treating HIV and hepatitis.
Sharing used syringes is the most common way hepatitis C virus is spread and the second most common cause of HIV and hepatitis B. According to the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, 48 states besides California allow sterile syringe sales without a prescription. Of these, only four cap the number of syringes that can be bought at once.
“This policy saves lives without encouraging drug use,” added Ting. “We fought that mythology all year and ultimately prevailed because the medical community and mountains of research were on our side.”
In 2012, Brown signed legislation allowing California pharmacists to sell up to 30 syringes over the counter but it expires at the end of the year. California law first allowed adults to buy 10 syringes from pharmacists without a prescription in 2005 but local governments had to authorize it. Only 15 counties and 4 cities gave pharmacists the choice to furnish syringes.
“Diseases do not respect borders,” concluded Ting. “Allowing all pharmacists to sell syringes means thousands of locations open every day across the state will help save lives.”
Further information about AB 1743 is available online at www.leginfo.ca.gov.