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Measure Would Protect Public Health by Curbing Harmful Blood-borne Transmissions

A bill sponsored by Assemblymen Reed Gusciora and Gordon Johnson that would permit pharmacies to sell over-the-counter hypodermic needles was approved by the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee on Monday.

“This bill will help curb the transmission of HIV/AIDS and other bloodborne diseases and allow people who are diabetic to readily have syringes for their use,” said Gusciora (D-Mercer). “This sensible and controlled approach will enable syringe users to take personal responsibility for both their health and the health of others.”

The sponsors noted that the bill (A-1088) would permit the limited sale by pharmacies of hypodermic syringes and needles without a prescription in order to make these instruments more accessible to New Jersey residents seeking to protect their own health, and to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C and other bloodborne diseases.

The sponsors also said that the state’s needle exchange programs have similarly been reported to be working well. Gusciora also pointed out that New Jersey is one of the few states that does not allow over-the-counter sales of hypodermic needles.

“This measure would empower those seeking to be proactive and protect their own health and the health of others,” said Johnson (D-Bergen). “It is not designed to allow for the unrestricted flow of needles, but instead it’s a smart approach to creating access to those who need them.”

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control, “Increased pharmacy sales of sterile syringes can help reduce the risk of acquiring and transmitting blood-borne viruses among intravenous drug users who continue to inject.”

Under the bill, a licensed pharmacy would be able to sell a hypodermic syringe or needle to a person over 18 years of age without a prescription if sold in quantities of 10 or less; or in quantities of more than 10 under an authorized prescription. Pharmacies selling hypodermic syringes or needles must keep their supply under or behind the sales counter and inaccessible to the public.

Pharmacies would also be required to provide each person who purchases any such instrument with information about the safe disposal of the instruments as well as substance abuse treatment options.

Anyone who purchases a hypodermic syringe or needle and sells that needle or syringe to another person would be guilty of a disorderly persons offense, which is punishable by imprisonment for up to 6 months, or a fine of up to $1,000, or both.

Notwithstanding any state law, rule or regulation to the contrary, it would be legal to possess a hypodermic syringe or needle without a prescription under this bill.

The bill was approved by a vote of 8-1-2.