• Article

Racial differences in acquisition of syringes from pharmacies under conditions of legal but restricted sales

Background: Injecting drug users (IDUs) are at increased risk of acquiring and transmitting HIV and other bloodborne pathogens through the multi-person use of syringes. Although research has shown that increased access to syringes through syringe exchange programs (SEPs) is an effective strategy to reduce risky injection practices many areas of the United States still do not have SEPs. In the absence of SEPs, legislation allowing pharmacies over-the-counter sales of syringes has also been shown to reduce syringe sharing. The success of pharmacy sales however is limited by other legal stipulations, such as drug paraphernalia laws, which in turn may contribute to fear among IDUs about being caught purchasing and carrying syringes. Methods: Between 2003 and 2006, 851 out-of-treatment IDUs were recruited using street outreach in the Raleigh-Durham (North Carolina) area. Data were collected using audio-computer assisted interview (ACASI) technology. Multiple logistic regression analyses were performed to assess factors associated with purchasing syringes from pharmacies. Results: In our study sample, African-American IDUs were one-fifth as likely as white IDUs to report pharmacies as their primary source of syringes. Conclusions: Given the absence of syringe exchange programs and the relatively high prevalence of HCV and HIV among IDUs in the Raleigh-Durham area, the limited use of pharmacies as a source of syringes among African-American IDUs in this study sample is problematic. The study findings support the need for effective multilevel interventions to increase access to clean needles in this population, as well as for policy interventions, such as legalization of SEPs and elimination of penalties for carrying syringes, to reduce harm and eliminate the health threats posed by receptive syringe sharing. (c) 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved


Costenbader, E., Zule, W., & Coomes, C. (2010). Racial differences in acquisition of syringes from pharmacies under conditions of legal but restricted sales. International Journal of Drug Policy, 21(5), 425-428. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2009.12.006