Pubdate: Wed, 27 Oct 2004
Source: Chicago Sun-Times (IL)
Copyright: 2004 The Sun-Times Co.
Author: Dave McKinney, Sun-Times Springfield Bureau


SPRINGFIELD -- Relatively few people appear to be taking advantage of a new 
state law that allows them to purchase up to 20 hypodermic syringes without 
a prescription, one of the state's largest pharmacies said Tuesday.

Gov. Blagojevich enacted the law in July of last year amid heavy lobbying 
from the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, which pushed the idea as a means to 
reduce the transmission of HIV and hepatitis C among intravenous drug users.

"I don't think there has been a real large difference for us so far in the 
sale of syringes," said Walgreens spokesman Michael Polzin. "It's not like 
all of a sudden our sales have doubled. That's not the case.

"A lot of that is because there's still some education that needs to be 
done among the public that they don't need a prescription for that," he said.

Citing proprietary concerns, Walgreens would not divulge its sales for 
prescription-free syringes under the new law, which was pushed by state 
Sen. Donne Trotter (D-Chicago). The Illinois Department of Public Health 
does not track how many people buy needles without prescriptions, an agency 
spokesman said.

To get the law passed, advocates had to overcome concerns that drug abuse 
rates would soar if hypodermic needles were easier to obtain. While there 
has been no evidence of that since the bill became law under Democrats in 
Springfield, critics remain uncomfortable.

"I don't like the concept. I don't think we're helping the situation," said 
Sen. Kathleen Wojcik (R-Schaumburg), who voted against the legislation. "I 
think we should be out there trying to help people get on their two feet 
and get off drugs, not making it easier [to use drugs] by being able to get 
the needles."

But David Munar, the AIDS Foundation's associate director, said this 
approach carries immense public health benefits, though he acknowledged 
that word of the new state law has been slow to spread to drug users and 
others in need.

"We're finding we need to do a lot more education about the availability of 
non-prescription syringe sales," he said.

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