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California Law related to Nonprescription Syringe Sale


SB 41 (Yee, Chapter 738, Statutes of 2011) permits licensed pharmacists throughout the state to sell or furnish up to 30 syringes without a prescription to customers over the age of 18, and allows adults to purchase and possess up to 30 syringes for personal use when acquired from an authorized source. 

The bill specifies that pharmacists, physicians, and syringe exchange programs (SEPs) are authorized sources of nonprescription syringes for disease prevention purposes.  SB 41 also requires pharmacies and SEPs which offer NPSS to provide options for safe syringe disposal. 

Evaluation of the Disease Prevention Demonstration Project established by Senate Bill (SB) 1159 (Vasconcellos, Chapter 608, Statutes of 2004) demonstrated that increasing access to sterile syringes in pharmacies can significantly reduce rates of injection equipment sharing in California. Counties that allowed NPSS under the project observed lower injection-related risks among injection drug users and lower levels of unsafe discard of used hypodermic needles or syringes. Additionally, evaluators found no increase in the rate of accidental needle‑stick injuries to law enforcement officers and no increase in rates of drug use or drug‑related crime.  

SB 41 builds on the successes of the demonstration project by making NPSS standard pharmacy practice and removing authorization and registration requirements to improve access to sterile syringes for pharmacy customers. 

Download SB 41 Fact Sheet (PDF)Opens in a new browser window. 

Under the provisions of SB 41, the State of California is required to:  

Develop and maintain information on the Office of AIDS website to assist pharmacists in educating consumers at risk of blood-borne infections about: 

  • how consumers can access testing and treatment for HIV and viral hepatitis;
  • how consumers can safely dispose of syringes, needles, and other sharps waste; and
  • how consumers can access drug treatment. 

The California Board of Pharmacy must post, or post a link to, this same information. 

Under the provisions of SB 41, local governments: 

  • Are no longer required to authorize participation in order for pharmacists to provide NPSS. 

Under the provisions of SB 41, local health departments: 

  • Are no longer required to register pharmacists to provide NPSS;
  • Are no longer required to maintain a list of pharmacies that provide NPSS; and
  • Are no longer required to provide pharmacists with educational materials for customers about drug treatment, HIV and HCV testing and treatment, and proper syringe disposal. These materials are provided on OA’s website. 

For more information on syringe access law, including information on syringe disposal, download California Legal Code Related to Access to Sterile Syringes (PDF) Opens in a new browser window. 

The Disease Prevention Demonstration Project 

DPDP was established in 2005 by SB 1159 (Vasconcellos, Chapter 608, Statutes of 2004) to evaluate the long-term desirability of allowing licensed pharmacies to sell or furnish nonprescription hypodermic needles or syringes to prevent the spread of blood‑borne pathogens. The program allows local health departments, after obtaining authorization from their local government, and pharmacies, after registration with the local health department, to provide NPSS. 

California code governing the DPDP is made inoperative by SB 41 until January 1, 2015, when the provisions of SB 41 sunset. At that time, if subsequent legislation has not been enacted to extend and/or make permanent the statewide authorization of NPSS, DPDP will once again be in operation until 2018. 

Download the SB 1159 Evaluation Report: Over-the-Counter Pharmacy Syringe Sales in California. 

Picture of PharmacistThe Disease Prevention Demonstration Project (DPDP) and non-prescription syringe sales (Video)Opens in a new browser window.

This educational documentary for pharmacists features interviews with public health officials and with pharmacists who are currently providing non-prescription syringes to their customers. The video addresses questions and concerns pharmacists may have and explores the role of pharmacists in reducing the spread of HIV and viral hepatitis in their communities. 

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Last modified on: 10/3/2014 10:07 AM