January 27, 2005
People who sought to purchase sterile syringes from pharmacies in Colorado, Connecticut, Kentucky, and Missouri were refused at least one-third of the time, despite laws in those and most other states permitting the sale of syringes without a prescription, a recent study found. This could hamper HIV prevention efforts, since injection drug users who purchase sterile syringes are less likely to share needles and transmit blood-borne viruses.
In the study, research assistants -- all of whom had a prior history of drug use -- attempted 1,600 syringe purchases and were refused 35 percent of the time. In Colorado, 25 percent of purchases were refused; in Connecticut, 28 percent; in Kentucky, 41 percent; and in Missouri, 47 percent. Rural settings had lower refusal rates than urban settings, 31 and 40 percent, respectively.
Though the four states have no specific laws prohibiting pharmacies from selling syringes, the level of permissiveness varies among them. For example, Connecticut permits prescription-free sale of syringes, while Missouri gives pharmacies the power to set their own policies, allowing pharmacists the right to refuse syringe sales to suspected drug users or to demand a prescription.
The full report, "A Multistate Trial of Pharmacy Syringe Purchase," was published in the Journal of Urban Health (2004;81(4):661-670).
AIDS Weekly & Law