Ting Syringe Access Reform Bill Headed to Gov. Brown

For immediate release:

(SACRAMENTO, CA) – The State Legislature passed a bill authored by Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) to help prevent syringe sharing, a leading cause for HIV/AIDS and hepatitis, by expanding sterile syringe access.

Assembly Bill (AB) 1743 passed the Assembly today with a 53-20 vote, following a 36-0 Senate vote last week.  These are unprecedented votes in support of syringe access.  Governor Jerry Brown has 12 days to act on the bill upon receipt.

“Syringes can be bought over the counter in nearly every state because the policy saves lives without taxpayer expense,” said Ting.  “Mountains of research and the medical community stand squarely behind this bill.  We are not innovating, we are playing catch up.  By signing the bill, the Governor can put California in step with the rest of the nation.”

Assembly Bill (AB) 1743 allows pharmacists to sell an unlimited number of syringes to adults without a prescription through the year 2020.  Participating pharmacists must meet uniform requirements for the provision of informational materials about safe syringe disposal, drug treatment access, and options for testing and treating HIV and hepatitis.

“This bill is an exciting breakthrough,” said Laura Thomas, Deputy State Director for the Drug Policy Alliance.  “Pharmacy syringe access is a proven and cost-effective way to save lives by reducing the spread of HIV and hepatitis.  It has taken years of advocacy to receive such strong support for sterile syringe access inside the State Capitol.”

Ting’s bill expands on current law, which has allowed pharmacists to sell up to 30 syringes over the counter since 2012 but expires at the end of this year.  Without AB 1743, most pharmacists will lose the choice to furnish sterile syringes and access will be gone in most of the state because California would revert back to a law where over the counter syringe access is dictated by local governments.  Under those terms, only pharmacists in 15 counties and 4 cities would maintain the ability to sell syringes over the counter.

“We see first-hand the health benefits of offering sterile syringes to members of our community in San Francisco,” said Neil Giuliano, Chief Executive Officer of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.  “Improving legal access to sterile syringes for all Californians will save lives.  This is sound, evidence-based health policy that will deliver results and we urge Governor Brown to sign this bill into law.”

Sharing used syringes is the most common way hepatitis C virus is spread and the second most common cause of HIV and hepatitis B.  According to the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, 48 states besides California allow sterile syringe sales without a prescription.  Of these, only four cap the number of syringes that can be bought at once.

Further information about AB 1743 is available online at www.leginfo.ca.gov.

Contact: Anthony Matthews, tel. (916) 319-2019, anthony.matthews@asm.ca.gov