New Jersey Assembly Approves Bill to Allow Syringes to be Sold Without Prescription

The New Jersey Assembly has approved a bill that would allow intravenous drug users to purchase needles without a prescription. The goal of the bill is to halt the spread of diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C, according to NJ.com.

The bill would allow pharmacies to sell up to 10 hypodermic needles to adults without a prescription. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has not said whether he will sign the bill.

The article notes that as U.S. Attorney, Christie was against needle exchange programs. During his 2009 campaign for governor, he indicated he might change his position on the issue. His spokesman, Michael Drewniak, said, “The bill will get careful review and consideration.”

If the bill is signed into law, New Jersey would become the 49th state to allow the sale of syringes without a prescription. Delaware still requires a prescription for syringes.

New Jersey’s ban on over-the-counter syringe sales was passed in 1955. Many states repealed their bans after studies showed drug users would purchase needles in pharmacies instead of on the black market if they could.

In 1994, the governor set up a panel to study the question. Two years later, the panel recommended lifting the pharmacy ban, but the governor opposed the move. Some lawmakers said that making syringes easier to obtain would encourage drug use. The state set up needle-exchange programs in five cities in 2006.

5 Responses to New Jersey Assembly Approves Bill to Allow Syringes to be Sold Without Prescription

  1. Sandra | December 6, 2011 at 11:32 am

    Free needle exchange programs (like mobile ones operating from a van) still have a valuable role to play because they take dirty needles off the street that might become litter, give outreach workers a chance to let addicts know about detox and treatment availability and other essential services, and provide a trusted link to the addict community, valuable in many emergencies.

    Legally purchasing syringes at pharmacies is an essential option as well. Preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS in the IV drug using community is not only for the good of an isolated community and the healthcare costs of their short and sad AIDS illness. Many of those who have used IV drugs unsafely still have sexual partners in the community and look well enough to assuage any casual doubt about AIDS. Lots of people have unprotected sex. Making sharing needles rare is good public health, and good public policy.

  2. Jessica | December 6, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    Please change the first paragraph to say “without” a prescription to accurately complete the sentence. Thanks, it was confusing in the email and in this, the full story.

    • Candice Besson | December 6, 2011 at 2:47 pm

      Thank you for bringing this to my attention Jessica! I’ll make the update right now.

  3. John French | December 6, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    We started fighting for legal access to needles in the mid 1980s, when it became obvious that addicts were dying of AIDS because of the state’s failure. We were fought on every side by our own Commissioners of Health and the various Governors, whose perceptions of what the voters wanted was more important to them then the lives of addicts. Let us hope that now sanity will prevail.

  4. Ken Wolski | December 9, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services said that in 1990 there were approximately 6000 men and women living in the state with HIV/AIDS as a result of contracting the disease through IVDU. In 2001, this number rose to almost 11,000 cases. The DHSS estimated that 46% of all New Jersey HIV/AIDS cases were IVDU-related.

    Access to sterile syringes does not cause people to begin or increase drug usage. The motivation to inject drugs goes far deeper than syringe availability. Nor do restrictive syringe access laws stop IVDUs from obtaining syringes; they only ensure that the syringes that are used are more likely to spread infectious diseases.

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