Legislation designed to cut HIV transmissions by allowing California pharmacists to sell syringes over the counter to adults passed the state Assembly Thursday, April 10 and is headed to the Senate.
Assembly Bill 1743, authored by Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), would permanently give pharmacists the choice to sell syringes to adults without prescription if the pharmacists meet requirements for providing information about safe disposal and other conditions.
AB 1743 passed by a vote of 46 to 26. If the bill isn’t enacted, most pharmacists will lose this choice at the end of the year. Only pharmacists in 15 counties and four cities, including San Francisco, would still be able to sell syringes over the counter, with conditions, according to Ting’s office.
“Nearly all of the 50 states have adopted this policy,” Ting said in emailed comments to the Bay Area Reporter. “California was late to join this consensus among the states only in 2012, albeit temporarily. We cannot get even further behind the curve. Without this bill, most of California will not have safe syringe access and lives will be at risk. HIV and hepatitis don’t respect the boundaries of our local communities. … We have a decisive consensus in the medical field behind this bill. Needles may make people uncomfortable but there is no need to fear this bill.”
Sharing used needles is the most common way hepatitis is spread and the second most common cause of HIV and hepatitis B, according to Ting’s office. Besides California, 48 states currently allow syringe sales without a prescription.
Ting’s bill has local support, including from San Francisco AIDS Foundation CEO Neil Giuliano, which has been distributing clean needles for years.
“AB 1743 will help thousands of people throughout the state and reduce the burden of HIV and HCV on our public health system,” Giuliano said in a news release from Ting’s office. “As operator of one of the oldest and largest syringe access programs in the country, we know the significant impact that access to sterile syringes can have in preventing blood-borne illnesses like HIV and HCV among people in our community at high risk for infection.”
More information on the bill is available at www.leginfo.ca.gov.