Clean Needles, Clean Community: Needle sales help addicts, others

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By Mackenzie Sanders

The state of Kentucky allows pharmacies to sell syringes over the counter without a doctor’s prescription. Each pharmacy has its own set of policies, including those owned by major corporations. Policies vary depending on the store.

An analysis, conducted in 2010,compared rural versus urban areas between Connecticut, Colorado, Kentucky and Missouri and concluded that, “Individual opinions vary not just from state to state but also based on the location of the pharmacy and the population that the pharmacy serves,” said the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association.

Most pharmacies are aware that not everyone who purchases syringes is using them for insulin or allergies.

Managing pharmacist of a large pharmacy in Lexington, Kentucky, said she absolutely agrees with that store’s policy to sell syringes over the counter. “Refusing to sell needles encourages sharing of needles,” said head pharmacist.

The sales of syringes are over the counter, but are kept on record as required by law. Any person who purchases syringes must show proof of identification. They must list their intended use, name, phone number, address and signature in a logbook. The managing pharmacist has refused a sale to a patient who failed to show any form of identification.

An intern at this pharmacy said she would prefer a policy that would require a person to have an insulin prescription on file to allow them syringes to purchase. She said she believed this to be the best, “Because not all people coming to buy syringes are as they say they are.” The intern has never refused an over the counter syringe sale.

The managing pharmacist explains that requiring a patient to have insulin on file could be considered a form of discrimination, when there are many other uses for syringes. It is hard to prove someone is using syringes illegally and denying them “can lead down a dangerous path.”

Both head pharmacist and intern agree that creating stricter policies could dramatically decrease sales. It would not only eliminate the injection drug users (people who use syringes to inject drugs into themselves), but also take away from people who really need them.

A quick answer for many people would be to get a prescription from their doctor, but that won’t be the case for every person. People buy needles to use for their pet’s insulin. Diabetic cats are “very common” according to the head pharmacist.

Although there are people who abuse the availability of syringes, not selling them syringes does not eliminate their usage. It may cause the syringes to be reused and shared.

Note: neither the pharmacy nor the persons who work there were identified in this story because the policy of the company that owns the pharmacy forbids them from speaking without prior authorization.

 

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