GUSCIORA, JOHNSON, COUGHLIN BILL TO REGULATE SALE OF HYPODERMIC NEEDLES GAINS GREEN LIGHT FROM ASSEMBLY

Measure Would Bring New Jersey in Line with Rest of Nation in Protecting Public Health by Curbing Harmful Blood-borne Transmissions

A bill sponsored by Assemblymen Reed Gusciora, Gordon Johnson and Craig Coughlin that would bring New Jersey in line with the rest of the nation by permitting pharmacies to sell over-the-counter hypodermic needles to curb harmful blood-borne transmissions was granted approval by the full Assembly on Monday by a vote of 54 to 24.

“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 and hopefully get them on a path to treatment.”

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 pointed out that the state’s needle exchange programs have similarly been reported to be working well. Gusciora also noted that New Jersey is nearly the last state in the nation to allow the 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.”

“This is about being proactive rather than sitting on our hands hoping IV drug users won’t share needles when the availability of them is scarce,” said Coughlin (D-Middlesex). “Equally important, this bill will require pharmacies to provide information on substance abuse treatment options to hopefully inspire at least a portion of the population to seek a better alternative.”

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.