To determine the experiences, practices, and challenges associated with nonprescription syringe sales (NPSS) among pharmacists whose pharmacies were enrolled in the Disease Prevention Demonstration Project in San Francisco, CA.
Self-administered survey mailed to 69 pharmacies and interviews with pharmacists and technicians.
A total of 55 of 69 pharmacies (80%) returned the survey, and eight pharmacy managers and three pharmacy technicians were interviewed in person. Of pharmacists, 72% reported none or very few problems with NPSS in the previous year, although surveys and interviews illustrated challenges associated with NPSS in terms of time management, educating patients about syringe disposal, and understanding patient preferences for syringes. Of pharmacists, 62% reported NPSS to no more than 10 to 20 patients per week and 67% collected more than 400 syringes in the previous year. One-third of pharmacists perceived that their pharmacies were located in areas where drug activity was high and that the majority of NPSS patients injected illegal drugs.
Access to sterile syringes is a prominent public health issue, and pharmacists can play an important role in injection drug user (IDU) education and disease prevention. This evaluation suggests that pharmacies are selling nonprescription syringes to individuals perceived to be IDUs with no major problems. Additional evaluations from health department programs are needed to demonstrate the efficacy of NPSS in California.