County will allow pharmacies that register with its
Department of Health Services to sell syringes over the
counter in an attempt to slow the spread of HIV and
other infections that can be transmitted through
needles shared by drug users.
The board of supervisors voted 3-2 on Tuesday to
allow pharmacies to sell up to 10 syringes to
customers without a prescription, a move made possible
by the passage of a January ballot measure that allows
cities and counties to authorize the sales. The county
hopes to begin the sales by October.
"The cost of a syringe is infinitesimal compared
to the cost of treating an AIDS patient who has
contracted AIDS through a dirty needle," said
supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who voted for the measure
along with supervisors Gloria Molina and Yvonne Brathwaite
Burke. Critics complain the policy amounts to a
government endorsement of illegal drug use.
Supervisors Mike Antonovich and Don Knabe voted against the
proposal. The vote applies to pharmacies throughout the
county, excluding Pasadena and Long Beach, which have
their own health departments. The cities of Los
Angeles and West Hollywood voted to support the effort
earlier this year.
In Los Angeles County, an estimated 14% of the
49,000 residents living with AIDS or who have died
from the disease were either intravenous-drug users or
had sexual contact with such users. The county is home to
120,000 to 190,000 illegal intravenous-drug users. In March,
Riverside County voted against adopting the same sales
policy, but other counties have approved the
over-the-counter sales. Those counties include Alameda,
Marin, San Francisco, Contra Costa, Santa Cruz, Yuba, and