Pubdate: Thu, 23 Nov 2017
Source: Cape Breton Post (CN NS)
Copyright: 2017 Cape Breton Post
Author: Nikki Sullivan
Page: A1


Most pharmacies won't ask what needles are used for

Used needles or other sharps never have to be discarded in bottles,
garbage or public spaces because of the Safe Sharps Bring-Back Program.

The Pharmacy Association of Nova Scotia (PANS) administers the program
for residential sharps users. Although it is not intended for people
who use intravenous drugs, most pharmacies won't ask what the needles
are being used for.

"The whole idea is about harm reduction," said Hugh Toner, pharmacist
owner of both Medicine Shoppe stores in Sydney.

"It's not our job to tell people what they can and can't do. We can
suggest, meet them where they are and walk with them to get to a
better place of health."

Amy Wagg, spokesperson for PANS, said she has never heard of any
pharmacy in Nova Scotia refusing to give or accept a Safe Sharp container.

"It's for anybody who uses a sharp. So it's not around a disease
stage, you don't have to show a doctor's prescription. All you have to
do is ask," she said during a phone interview.

"We want people to use these. We definitely don't want sharps in our
landfills. That's the reason for this program - to make sure these
sharps are disposed of safely, correctly and protecting those people
who work on the lines as well." Wagg admitted there is a "grey" area
when it comes to people who use injection drugs because they don't fit
into the rules, which are listed on the program's website or brochure.

"The reality is you may be using intravenous drugs but you may also
very legitimately have a prescription for another drug that involves a
sharp. So it is a grey line but I've never heard of a pharmacy turn
away somebody," she said.

People who bring in used sharps in containers like plastic bottles or
cardboard boxes could be refused because they aren't stored safely.
Generally, the pharmacy gives the customer a Safe Sharp container to
transfer the needles themselves.

At Toner's pharmacies, they will accept needles stored in plastic,
puncture-free bottles one time. They then explain the proper way to
dispose of used needles and give a Safe Sharps container for future.

"If you start turning that bottle upside down and sharp needles that
have been used and punctured with are flying everywhere, that just
doesn't work. We just have to hit the reset button and start fresh,"
he said.

During his career, Toner has seen big changes in needle

"Thirty years ago, if somebody came in looking for insulin needles …
you were kind of betwixt and between because we weren't really allowed
to sell them to somebody who wasn't a diabetic," he said.

"But then these people would go behind the building and pull dirty
water up in syringes from mud puddles in the back yard. That's not
good. If you get hepatitis or some kind of infectious

disease, it's clogging up the health-care system, it's not good for
the person."

Like Wagg, Toner doesn't know of any pharmacies that would refuse to
give or take a Safe Sharps container.

"Harm reduction is very mainstream now. Many stores dispense methadone
to help them (people who use drugs) move forward in their life," he

"Maybe it's just a misunderstanding or people not having the right
idea about it, but I don't know of any these days."

Safe Sharp containers are available at all pharmacies in Nova Scotia.
No identification or prescription is needed. There is also no charge.

Once the container is full they can be brought to any pharmacy in the

Nova Scotia was the first province to start a program like this, which
launched 20 years ago.

The program is not for home care workers, doctor's offices or other
businesses in the medical field.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt