Syringe Sales Without a Prescription: What Pharmacists Think


Legalizing the sale of syringes creates accessible, affordable, and reliable sources of sterile syringes for injection drug users (IDU).

Injection drug use increases an individuals' risk for acquisition of HIV, and hepatitis infections, especially if he or she shares needles. Legalizing the sale of syringes creates accessible, affordable, and reliable sources of sterile syringes for injection drug users (IDU). Several states have legalized sale of syringes from pharmacies, and analysis in the ensuing months, and years has demonstrated increased pharmacy syringe sales with no accompanying increase in injection drug use or publicly discarded syringes. Some studies have also documented decreased syringe sharing.

Researchers from numerous institutions across the country looked at what predicts pharmacy syringe sales without a prescription. Their findings, published in the International Journal of Drug Policy, indicate that several factors can increase the likelihood of a successful syringe program.

The researchers used a hybrid staggered online survey of pharmacists practicing in Indiana community pharmacies. Half (50.5%) of the respondents indicated that they had sold syringes without a prescription to IDU, and among those who did, the involved pharmacists were comfortable with, and supported syringe for IDU.

The authors report a troubling statistic: pharmacies located in communities with high opioid overdose mortality were 56% less likely to sell syringes without a prescription than those in communities with lower rates. Certain factors were more likely to predict increased comfort with this process:

  • Male sex
  • Working at a pharmacy that sold syringes to IDU or naloxone
  • Previous questions concerning syringe access from medical providers
  • A positive inclination toward allowing IDU to purchase syringes without prescriptions

The authors recommend that communities that are experiencing high rates of opioid abuse consider increasing syringe access through community pharmacies. They also recommend working to resolve policy conflicts, and increasing continuing education about nonprescription syringe distribution for pharmacists.

Pharmacies' convenient locations, and hours represent an avenue to increase access to clean syringes for IDUs. Pharmacists can provide advice and referrals for IDUs, and can emphasize safe disposal. These efforts can prevent the spread of HIV and hepatitis.

Pharmacists can access more information online about their states' laws on syringe sales.


  • Enlisting Pharmacists for HIV Prevention
  • Targeting HIV Transmission Rates


Meyerson BE, Davis A, Agley JD, et al. Predicting pharmacy syringe sales to people who inject drugs: Policy, practice and perceptions. Int J Drug Policy. 2018;56:46-53.

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