Nonprescription Sale of Syringes in Pharmacies
Licensed pharmacists may sell hypodermic needles and syringes to adults aged 18 and older without a prescription. Lack of access to new, sterile injection equipment is one of the primary risk factors that leads to syringe sharing, which puts people who inject drugs at high risk for HIV and HCV, as well as for hepatitis B infections.
Nonprescription Syringe Sale (NPSS) Toolkit: Materials for Pharmacists, Health Departments and Customers
The NPSS Toolkit is a compilation of resources designed to help public health agencies expand NPSS in their jurisdictions. The toolkit includes the information pharmacies need to start offering syringes for sale without a prescription. The toolkit's documents may be used in training, academic detailing, and planning activities, and serve as quick reference resources for public health and pharmacy staff.
Fact Sheets - Short documents addressing fundamentals
The Pharmacist Fact Sheet (PDF) outlines the benefits and the key requirements for nonprescription sale of syringes.
The Patient Information Sheet is designed for pharmacists to provide to their customers. It provides information on how to properly dispose of sharps waste and gives resources to help customers find drug treatment programs, HIV and viral hepatitis testing, and related medical services. The flyer is available in an
English version (PDF) and a
Spanish version (PDF).
Tools for Educators – Briefing documents for provider detailing, as well as for pharmacists and pharmacy staff
Additional Toolkits and Resources
Toolkit from the College of Psychiatric and Neurologic Pharmacists - Harm Reduction Strategies for People Who Inject Drugs: Considerations for Pharmacists provides quick tips and guideline summaries, along with resources and references on harm reduction services, professional and policy support, and other topics for pharmacists serving people who inject drugs.
List of pharmacy schools in California – Many health departments in the U.S. have worked closely schools of pharmacy to broaden local participation in non-prescription syringe sale, as well as other public health interventions such as naloxone prescription and HIV and HCV medication adherence.
Key Provisions of California Law
California law allows individuals to possess needles and syringes for personal use. There is no limit on the number of needles and syringes that pharmacies may sell to a customer aged 18 and older, and no limit on the number an adult can purchase and possess.
Pharmacies that sell syringes without a prescription must store needles and syringes behind counter and must:
Needle and Syringe Disposal
Used needles, syringes and lancets ("sharps") from individuals are termed "home-generated" waste by California law. Home-generated sharps waste is not regulated in the same way as "medical waste," which is generated on site by medical providers.
Businesses and facilities that accept home-generated sharps waste can be found through:
California Law Related to Sharps Waste Disposal
Business and Professions (B&P) Code Section 4146 permits pharmacies to accept the return of needles and syringes from the public if contained in a sharps container, which is defined in H&S Code Section 117750 as "a rigid puncture-resistant container that, when sealed, is leak resistant and cannot be reopened without great difficulty."
B&P Code 4145.5 requires pharmacies that sell or provide nonprescription syringes to also provide consumers with one or more of three disposal options: 1) onsite disposal, 2) provision of sharps containers that meet applicable state and federal standards, and/or 3) provision of mail-back sharps containers.
Health and Safety (H&S) Code Section 118286 prohibits individuals from discarding home-generated sharps waste in home or business recycling or waste containers.