Both syringe exchange programs (SEPs) and pharmacy sales of syringes are available in Estonia, though the current high incidence and high prevalence of HIV among injection drug users (IDUs) in Tallinn, Estonia requires large-scale implementation of additional harm reduction programs as a matter of great urgency. The aims of this report were to compare risk behavior and HIV infection and to assess the prevention needs among IDUs who primarily use pharmacies as their source of sterile syringes with IDUs who primarily use SEPs in Tallinn.
A cross-sectional study using respondent-driven sampling was used to recruit 350 IDUs for an interviewer-administered survey and HIV testing. IDUs were categorized into two groups based on their self-reported main source for syringes within the last six months. Odds ratios with 95% CI were used to compare characteristics and risk factors between the groups.
The main sources of sterile needles for injection drug users were SEP/SEP outreach (59%) and pharmacies (41%). There were no differences in age, age at injection drug use initiation, the main drug used or experiencing overdoses. Those IDUs using pharmacies as a main source of sterile needles had lower odds for being infected with either HIV (AOR 0.54 95% CI 0.33–0.87) or HCV (AOR 0.10 95% CI 0.02–0.50), had close to twice the odds of reporting more than one sexual partner within the previous 12 months (AOR 1.88 95% CI 1.17–3.04) and engaging in casual sexual relationships (AOR 2.09 95% CI 1.24–3.53) in the last six months.
The data suggest that the pharmacy users were at a less "advanced" stage of their injection career and had lower HIV prevalence than SEP users. This suggests that pharmacies could be utilized as a site for providing additional HIV prevention messages, services for IDUs and in linking IDUs with existing harm reduction services.
Estonia has experienced an HIV epidemic among intravenous drug users (IDUs) with the highest per capita HIV prevalence in Eastern Europe. We assessed the effects of expanded syringe exchange programs (SEP) in the capital city, Tallinn, which has an estimated 10,000 IDUs.
SEP implementation was monitored with data from the Estonian National Institute for Health Development. Respondent driven sampling (RDS) interview surveys with HIV testing were conducted in Tallinn in 2005, 2007 and 2009 (involving 350, 350 and 327 IDUs respectively). HIV incidence among new injectors (those injecting for < = 3 years) was estimated by assuming (1) new injectors were HIV seronegative when they began injecting, and (2) HIV infection occurred at the midpoint between first injection and time of interview.
SEP increased from 230,000 syringes exchanged in 2005 to 440,000 in 2007 and 770,000 in 2009. In all three surveys, IDUs were predominantly male (80%), ethnic Russians (>80%), and young adults (mean ages 24 to 27 years). The proportion of new injectors decreased significantly over the years (from 21% in 2005 to 12% in 2009, p = 0.005). HIV prevalence among all respondents stabilized at slightly over 50% (54% in 2005, 55% in 2007, 51% in 2009), and decreased among new injectors (34% in 2005, 16% in 2009, p = 0.046). Estimated HIV incidence among new injectors decreased significantly from 18/100 person-years in 2005 and 21/100 person-years in 2007 to 9/100 person-years in 2009 (p = 0.026).
In Estonia, a transitional country, a decrease in the HIV prevalence among new injectors and in the numbers of people initiating injection drug use coincided with implementation of large-scale SEPs. Further reductions in HIV transmission among IDUs are still required. Provision of 70 or more syringes per IDU per year may be needed before significant reductions in HIV incidence occur.
Syringe-exchange programs (SEPs) have proven to prevent the spread of bloodborne pathogens, primarily human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), among injection drug users (IDUs). In the United States, only about 7% of IDUs have access to and use SEPs. Some IDUs engage in secondary syringe exchange (SSE), meaning that one IDU (a “provider”) obtains syringes at an SEP to distribute to other IDUs (“recipients”). This formative qualitative research was conducted to understand why and how IDUs engage in SSE to aid in the development of a large-scale peer HIV prevention intervention. Interviews with 47 IDUs in Oakland and Richmond, California, indicated that SSE was embedded in existing social networks, which provided natural opportunities for peer education. SSE providers reported a desire to help other IDUs as their primary motivation, while recipients reported convenience as their primary reason for using SSE. Building SSE into SEP structures can facilitate an effective provision of risk reduction supplies and information to IDUs who do not access SEPs directly.
HIV prevention; Injection drug use; Peer intervention; Secondary syringe exchange; Social networks
Increased access to sterile syringes among injection drug users (IDUs) has been correlated with reduced syringe sharing. Many states, including Rhode Island, have legalized non-prescription (NP) sale of syringes in pharmacies. Previous studies have suggested that training pharmacists to provide HIV-related services to IDUs may be an important opportunity to engage IDUs and provide them with such services. However, it is not clear to what extent pharmacy staff are willing to expand their roles in providing services to IDUs who come in to purchase syringes. We recruited pharmacists and pharmacy staff from the 48 pharmacies indicating NP sale of syringes in the greater Providence, RI area, to participate in an online survey consisting of demographic information; views about the current syringe laws in Rhode Island; willingness to provide HIV-related services, including referral for HIV testing, substance use treatment, and medical and social services, to IDUs; and past experiences with IDU customers. One hundred and forty-six individuals completed the online survey (32 pharmacies, 114 pharmacy staff). Most participants were employed by chain pharmacies (92%). Most participants thought that pharmacies are important resources for IDU customers (77%) and that they would be willing to provide health and prevention information/referrals to IDU customers who purchase NP syringes (59%). With respect to willingness to offer HIV prevention-related services, access to confidential space and concern about personal safety had the strongest associations with willingness to provide HIV prevention services (OR, 4.3 and 0.1, respectively). As the nature of the retail pharmacy shifts, researchers, pharmacy executives, and health care officials can build upon the willingness of pharmacists and pharmacy staff in order to address the health needs of injection drug users and other underserved populations.
Pharmacies; IDUs; HIV prevention; OTC syringes
Recent data suggest that globally, between 5% and 10% of all new HIV cases are the result of unsafe injecting practices, and experts agree that reducing these practices is key to tackling the spread of HIV. And yet, despite the overwhelming evidence that providing sterile syringes to injection drug users (IDU) through syringe exchange programs (SEPs) or other means is an effective way of reducing HIV transmission among high-risk subpopulations, IDU in most settings still do not have access to sterile injecting equipment or if they do, access remains too restricted to effectively reduce the risk of HIV transmission. Vorobjov and colleagues have presented in this journal an interesting and timely study from Estonia comparing individuals who obtain syringes from SEPs and those who obtain syringes from pharmacies. As the authors point out, Estonia faces an unacceptably high HIV incidence rate of 50 new HIV cases per 100,000, this rate driven primarily by injection drug use. As such, the authors argue that Estonia's SEP network does not have the capacity to serve a growing IDU population at risk of transmitting HIV and pharmacy dispensation of clean syringes may be one potential approach to decreasing syringe sharing among high-risk injectors. It may be overly optimistic to consider the impact of higher threshold interventions such as pharmacy-based SEPs, given that IDU populations that engage in HIV risk behaviours such as syringe sharing are often hidden or hard to reach. Despite the need for a cautious approach, however, the findings presented by Vorobjov et al. may chart one potential course towards a more comprehensive societal response to reducing the health harms associated with injection drug use.
In May 2000, New York State passed legislation permitting the sale, purchase, and possession of up to 10 needles and syringes (hereafter “syringes”) without a prescription, intended to reduce blood-borne pathogen transmission among injection drug users (IDUs). To obtain baseline data on pharmacists' attitudes and practices related to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) prevention and IDUs, a telephone survey was administered to 130 pharmacists systematically selected in New York City. Less than half of pharmacists were aware of the new law; 49.6% were willing to or supported providing nonprescription sales of syringes to IDUs. Pharmacists in support tended to be less likely to consider customer appearance “very important.” Managing and supervising pharmacists were more likely than staff pharmacists to support syringe sales to IDUs. Managing and supervising pharmacists who stocked packs of 10 syringes and personal sharps disposal containers, pharmacists who supported syringe exchange in the pharmacy, and pharmacists who were willing to sell syringes to diabetics without a prescription were more likely to support syringe sales to IDUs. Syringe disposal was a prominent concern among all pharmacists. Those not in support of syringe sales to IDUs tended to be more likely to believe the practice would increase drug use. These data suggest the need for initiatives to address concerns about syringe disposal and tailored continuing education classes for pharmacists on HIV and viral hepatitis prevention among IDUs.
The HIV epidemic in Estonia is rapidly expanding, and injection drug users (IDUs) are the major risk group contributing to the expansion. A convenience sample of 159 IDUs visiting syringe-exchange programmes (SEPs) was selected to quantify the association of HIV-risk behaviours and blood-borne infections. A high prevalence of HIV, hepatitis B core antibody (HBVcore), hepatitis B surface antigen (HbsAg) and hepatitis C virus antibodies (56, 85.1, 21.3, and 96.2%, respectively) was associated with high-risk injections, unsafe sexual behaviour and alcohol abuse. These findings emphasize the importance of evidence-based secondary prevention among the HIV-infected, especially given the uncertain sustainability of antiretroviral and substance abuse treatments.
injection drug use; HIV; HBV; HCV; high-risk behaviour; Estonia
Community-based prevention initiatives such as syringe exchange programs (SEPs) are proven to curb injection-related HIV transmission. Policing targeting injection drug users (IDUs) can interfere with SEP functioning. Efforts to maximize the public health benefit of SEPs have included police trainings designed to reduce such interference.
We surveyed US SEP managers to assess prevalence, content, and correlates of SEP police trainings. Multivariate analyses were utilized to identify predictors of training participation.
Of 107 SEPs (57% of all US programs), 20% reported participating in trainings during the previous year. Covered topics included the public health rationale behind SEPs (71%), police occupational health (67%), needle stick injury (62%), SEPs’ legal status (57%), and harm reduction philosophy (67%). On average, trainings were seen as moderately effective, but only four programs reported conducting any formal evaluation. In multivariate modeling, training participation was independently associated with state law authorizing syringe possession by clients (aOR=3.71, 95%CI=1.04–13.23), higher frequency of client arrest (aOR=2.07, 95%CI = 1.0–4.7), and systematic monitoring of adverse client-police encounters (aOR=4.02, 95%CI =1.14–14.17). Assistance with police trainings was identified by 72% of respondents as the key to improving police relations.
At a time when collaboration with police may become requisite for SEPs to receive federal funding, most program managers in the US perceive police trainings as a key to improved SEP-police relations. Robust evaluation is needed to better understand the impact of these trainings on law enforcement practices, SEP operations, and community health. Such research will inform technical assistance, policy design, and resource allocation.
Injection drug use; structural interventions; policing; police training; HIV prevention
In May 2000, New York State passed legislation permitting the sale, purchase, and possession of up to 10 needles and syringes without a prescription. The law is intended to reduce the transmission of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and hepatitis among injection drug users (IDUs), their sexual partners, and their children. To obtain baseline information about the attitudes and likely practices of New York State pharmacists, we distributed a self-administered questionnaire to attendees of the state pharmacy association meeting in June 2000. Of 48 usable responses, 19% were from New York City and the rest from New York State. Of the 48, 42% were unaware of the new law before the day of the survey, and 60% were somewhat or very willing to sell needles and syringes to an IDU. Of those who were not willing to sell to an IDU, 82% cited familiarity of the customer as a very important consideration in their decision making. Those who were not willing to sell to an IDU were more concerned about the detrimental impact of syringe sales on the community, were less likely to be aware of the new law, and were more likely to be concerned about legal liability for syringe sales. Over 80% of all pharmacists believed that syringe sales to IDUs are an important preventive health measure. The majority also favored learning more about the law. Compared to other state surveys of pharmacists, these preliminary data show a similar level of interest in becoming involved with syringe availability programs.
Increased options for syringe acquisition and disposal have been associated with reductions in high-risk behaviors. This study determined the extent of pharmacy uptake in accessing syringes among injection drug users (IDUs) and estimated associations between pharmacy uptake and safer injection/disposal practices. Two years after the implementation of California’s Disease Prevention Demonstration Project, which removed restrictions to non-prescription syringe sales through pharmacies with local authorization, IDUs were recruited through street outreach in San Francisco and interviewed regarding recent syringe acquisition, use, and disposal. The sample of 105 persons included a high proportion of men (67%), people of color (49%), and homeless persons (71%). The most common syringe source was a syringe exchange program (SEP) (80%), with pharmacies being accessed by 39% of respondents. The most commonly cited source of disposal was a SEP (65%), with very few reports of pharmacy disposal (2%). Adjusted analysis showed that unsuccessful attempts to purchase syringes at a pharmacy increased the odds of both injecting with a used syringe and giving away a used syringe. Using a SEP decreased the odds of unsafe injection and disposal practices. Thus, 2 years after the initiation of the California Disease Prevention Demonstration Project, results from this small study suggest that SEPs still provide the majority of syringe distribution and disposal services to San Francisco IDUs; however, pharmacies now augment syringe access. In addition, unsafe injection behavior is reported more often among those who do not use these syringe sources. These results are consistent with prior studies in suggesting that increasing the availability of syringes through SEPs and pharmacies, and developing bridges between them, may further reduce syringe-related risk.
HIV Risk; Injection Drug Use; Pharmacy
Syringe exchange programs (SEPs) aim to reduce the harm associated with injection drug use (IDU). Although they have been accepted as critical components of HIV prevention in many parts of the world, they are often unwelcome and difficult to set up and maintain, even in communities hardest hit by IDU-related HIV transmission. This research examines socio-cultural and political processes that shape community and institutional resistance toward establishing and maintaining SEPs. These processes are configured and reinforced through the socio-spatial stigmatizing of IDUs, and legal and public policy against SEPs. Overarching themes the paper considers are: (1) institutional and/or political opposition based on (a) political and law enforcement issues associated with state drug paraphernalia laws and local syringe laws; (b) harassment of drug users and resistance to services for drug users by local politicians and police; and (c) state and local government (in)action or opposition; and (2) the stigmatization of drug users and location of SEPs in local neighborhoods and business districts. Rather than be explained by “not in my back yard” localism, this pattern seems best conceptualized as an “inequitable exclusion alliance” (IEA) that institutionalizes national and local stigmatizing of drug users and other vulnerable populations.
syringe exchange programs; injection drug use; harm reduction; socio-spatial stigma; NIMBY; inequitable exclusion alliance; localism
Injecting drug users (IDUs) are at increased risk of acquiring and transmitting HIV and other bloodborne pathogens through the multi-person use of syringes. Although research has shown that increased access to syringes through syringe exchange programs (SEPs) is an effective strategy to reduce risky injection practices many areas of the United States still do not have SEPs. In the absence of SEPs, legislation allowing pharmacies over-the-counter sales of syringes has also been shown to reduce syringe sharing. The success of pharmacy sales however is limited by other legal stipulations, such as drug paraphernalia laws, which in turn may contribute to fear among IDUs about being caught purchasing and carrying syringes.
Between 2003 and 2006, 851 out-of-treatment IDUs were recruited using street outreach in the Raleigh-Durham (North Carolina) area. Data were collected using audio-computer assisted interview (ACASI) technology. Multiple logistic regression analyses were performed to assess factors associated with purchasing syringes from pharmacies.
In our study sample, African-American IDUs were one-fifth as likely as white IDUs to report pharmacies as their primary source of syringes.
Given the absence of syringe exchange programs and the relatively high prevalence of HCV and HIV among IDUs in the Raleigh-Durham area, the limited use of pharmacies as a source of syringes among African-American IDUs in this study sample is problematic. The study findings support the need for effective multilevel interventions to increase access to clean needles in this population, as well as for policy interventions, such as legalization of SEPs and elimination of penalties for carrying syringes, to reduce harm and eliminate the health threats posed by receptive syringe sharing.
Injecting drug users; African-Americans; purchasing syringes; carrying syringes
Studies suggest that community-based approaches could help pharmacies expand their public health role, particularly pertaining to HIV prevention. Thirteen pharmacies participating in New York’s Expanded Syringe Access Program, which permits non-prescription syringe sales to reduce syringe-sharing among injection drug users (IDUs), were enrolled in an intervention to link IDU syringe customers to medical/social services. Sociodemographics, injection practices, beliefs about and experiences with pharmacy use, and medical/social service utilization were compared among 29 IDUs purchasing syringes from intervention pharmacies and 66 IDUs purchasing syringes from control pharmacies using chi-square tests. Intervention IDUs reported more positive experiences in pharmacies than controls; both groups were receptive to a greater public health pharmacist role. These data provide evidence that CBPR aided in the implementation of a pilot structural intervention to promote understanding of drug use and HIV prevention among pharmacy staff, and facilitated expansion of pharmacy services beyond syringe sales in marginalized, drug-using communities.
Community Based Participatory Research; Structural Intervention; Harm Reduction; Pharmacies; HIV Prevention; Injection Drug Use
In New York, syringe exchange programs (SEPs) and pharmacies provide syringe access for IDUs but may be unable to meet the needs of all IDUs. This analysis aims to describe IDUs who access syringes through different outlets to help inform the prevention needs of IDUs who under-utilize safe syringe sources in a city where syringe availability is high relative to other U.S. cities.
New York City (2005–2007)
285 IDUs recruited using street-intercept sampling
Main outcome measure(s)
IDUs using SEPs, pharmacies, or other outlets as a primary syringe source were compared by sociodemographic characteristics, injection practices and medical service utilization.
Chi-square tests and polytomous logistic regression were used to compare IDUs with different self-reported primary syringe sources used 6 months prior to study entry. Compared with IDUs using other syringe sources, those using primarily SEPs were less likely to be Black (AOR:0.26 95%CI:0.11–0.57), more likely to inject daily (AOR:3.32; 95%CI:1.58–6.98), and more likely to inject with a new syringe (AOR:2.68; 95%CI:1.30–5.54). Compared with IDUs using other syringe sources, those using primarily pharmacies were less likely to be Black (AOR:0.39; 95%CI0.17–0.90).
These data suggest that pharmacies and SEPs may be reaching different populations of IDUs and highlight a sub-population of highly marginalized IDUs (Black and infrequent injectors) who are under-utilizing safe syringe sources in New York City. Targeted interventions are needed to reduce racial disparities and increase utilization of safe syringe outlets.
Syringe access; pharmacies; HIV prevention; racial disparities
Pharmacists have an important role in detecting, preventing, and solving
prescription problems, which if left unresolved, may pose a risk of harming
The objectives of this study were to evaluate the feasibility of a generic
study instrument for documentation of prescription problems requiring
contact with prescriber before dispensing. The study was organized: 1) by
countries: Estonia, Norway and Sweden; 2) by type of prescriptions:
handwritten prescriptions, printouts of prescriptions in the electronic
medical record and electronically transmitted prescriptions to pharmacies;
and 3) by recording method - self-completion by pharmacists and independent
Observational study with independent observers at community pharmacies in
Estonia (n=4) and Sweden (n=7) and self-completed protocols in Norway
Pharmacists’'in Estonia contacted the prescriber for 1.47% of the
prescriptions, about 3 times as often as in Norway (0.45%) and Sweden
(0.38%). Handwritten prescriptions dominated among the problem prescriptions
in Estonia (73.2%), printouts of prescriptions in the electronic medical
record (89.1%) in Norway and electronically transmitted prescriptions to
pharmacies (55.9%) in Sweden. More administrative errors were identified on
handwritten prescriptions and printouts of prescriptions in the electronic
medical record in Estonia and in Norway compared with electronically
transmitted prescriptions to pharmacies in Sweden (p<0.05 for
prescription types and p<0.01 for countries). However, clinically
important errors and delivery problems appeared equally often on the
different types of prescriptions. In all three countries, only few cases of
drug interactions and adverse drug reactions were identified.
Despite the different patterns of prescription problems in three countries,
the instrument was feasible and can be regarded appropriate to document and
classify prescription problems necessitating contact with prescriber before
dispensing, irrespective of the type of prescription or recording
Medication Errors; Patient Safety; Community Pharmacy Services; Estonia; Norway; Sweden
Injecting drug users (IDU) now account for one in 10 new HIV infections world wide. Yet it has been known since the early 1990s that HIV among IDU can be effectively, safely and cost-effectively controlled by the early and vigorous implementation of a comprehensive package of strategies known as ’harm reduction’. This concept means that decreasing drug-related harms is accorded an even higher priority than reduction of drug consumption. Strategies required involve: explicit and peer-based education about the risk of HIV from sharing injecting equipment; needle syringe programmes; drug treatment (including especially opiate substitution treatment) and community development. Many countries experiencing or threatened by an HIV epidemic among IDU have now adopted harm reduction but often implementation has been too little and too late. Although coverage is slowly improving in many countries, HIV is still spreading faster among IDU than harm reduction programmes while coverage in correctional centres lags far behind community settings. The scientific debate about harm reduction is now over. National and international support for harm reduction is growing while almost all the major UN organizations responsible for drug policy now support harm reduction. Only a small number of countries, led by the USA, are still vehemently opposed to harm reduction. Excessive reliance on drug law enforcement remains the major barrier to increased adoption of harm reduction. Sometimes zealous drug law enforcement undermines harm reduction. A more balanced approach to drug law enforcement is required with illicit drug use recognized primarily as a health and social problem.
controlling HIV; drug law reform; harm reduction; human rights; IDU; methadone; needle syringe programmes; pharmacotherapy; war against drugs
Sterile syringe access is a critical component of HIV prevention programs. Although retail pharmacies provide convenient outlets for syringe access, injection drug users (IDUs) may encounter barriers to syringe purchase even where purchase without a prescription is legal. We sought to obtain an objective measure of syringe access in Tijuana, Mexico, where IDUs report being denied or overcharged for syringes at pharmacies.
Trained "mystery shoppers" attempted to buy a 1 cc insulin syringe according to a predetermined script at all retail pharmacies in three Tijuana neighborhoods. The same pharmacies were surveyed by telephone regarding their syringe sales policies. Data on purchase attempts were analyzed using basic statistics to obtain an objective measure of syringe access and compared with data on stated sales policies to ascertain consistency.
Only 46 (28.4%) of 162 syringe purchase attempts were successful. Leading reasons for unsuccessful attempts were being told that the pharmacy didn't sell syringes (35.3%), there were no syringes in stock (31.0%), or a prescription was required (20.7%). Of 136 pharmacies also surveyed by telephone, a majority (88.2%) reported selling syringes but only one-third (32.5%) had a successful mystery shopper purchase; the majority of unsuccessful purchases were attributed to being told the pharmacy didn't sell syringes. There was similar discordance regarding prescription policies: 74 pharmacies said in the telephone survey that they did not require a prescription for syringes, yet 10 of these pharmacies asked the mystery shopper for a prescription.
IDUs in Tijuana have limited access to syringes through retail pharmacies and policies and practices regarding syringe sales are inconsistent. Reasons for these restrictive and inconsistent practices must be identified and addressed to expand syringe access, reduce syringe sharing and prevent HIV transmission.
New HIV diagnoses related to injection drug use (IDU) have declined in the United States. Access to clean syringes and decreasing HIV transmission among injection drug users have been HIV prevention priorities of the Rhode Island (RI) HIV community. To examine trends in IDU-related new HIV diagnoses in RI, we performed a retrospective analysis of new HIV diagnoses according to HIV risk factor from 1990–2003.
There has been an 80% absolute reduction in IDU-related new HIV diagnoses in RI coincident with IDU-specific prevention efforts.
There has been a greater decline in IDU-related new HIV diagnoses in Rhode Island compared to national data reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We hypothesize that this dramatic decline in Rhode Island is related to extensive HIV prevention efforts targeting IDUs. Further research is needed to examine the impact of specific HIV prevention interventions for injection drug users.
To determine support of in-pharmacy HIV-testing among pharmacy staff and the individual-level characteristics associated with in-pharmacy HIV testing support.
Descriptive, nonexperimental, cross-sectional study.
New York City (NYC) during January 2008 to March 2009.
131 pharmacies registered in the Expanded Syringe Access Program (ESAP) completed a survey.
480 pharmacy staff, including pharmacists, owners/managers, and technicians/clerks.
Main outcome measures
Support of in-pharmacy HIV testing.
Support of in-pharmacy HIV testing is high among pharmacy staff (79.4%). Pharmacy staff that supported in-pharmacy vaccinations were significantly more likely to support in-pharmacy HIV testing. Pharmacy staff that think that selling syringes to IDUs causes the community to be littered with dirty syringes were significantly less likely to support in-pharmacy HIV testing.
Support for in-pharmacy HIV testing is high among our sample of ESAP pharmacy staff actively involved in non-prescription syringe sales. These findings suggest that active ESAP pharmacy staff may be amenable to providing HIV counseling and testing to injection drug users and warrants further investigation.
Injection drug users; HIV testing; pharmacy services; New York City
Scientific consensus holds that if, at the outset of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, injection drug users (IDUs) had had better access to sterile syringes, much of the epidemic among IDUs in the U.S. could have been prevented. In the context of preventing infectious diseases, 100% syringe coverage—that is, one sterile syringe per injector for each injection—is a public health goal. Notably, we know little about variations in syringe coverage within the U.S. and elsewhere, or about the social and political factors that might determine this coverage.
Using data from Holmberg (AJPH, 1996), the 1990 United States Census, the 2000 Beth Israel National Syringe Exchange Survey (n=72), and estimates of IDUs in metropolitan areas (MSAs); (Friedman et al., 2004), we explore the impact of (1) political factors (ACT UP, outreach, early syringe exchange programme (SEP) presence, men who have sex with men (MSM) per capita, drug arrests, and police per capita); (2) local resources for SEPs; and (3) indicators of socioeconomic inequality on SEP coverage. We define “syringe coverage” as the ratio of syringes distributed at SEPs to the number of syringes heroin injectors need in a year. We calculated the number of syringes heroin injectors need in a year by multiplying an estimate of the number of IDUs in each MSA by an estimate of the average number of times heroin injectors inject heroin per year (2.8 times per day times 365 days). In this analysis, the sample was limited to 35 MSAs in which the primary drug of choice among injectors was heroin.
SEP coverage varies greatly across MSAs, with an average of 3 syringes distributed per 100 injection events (std dev = 0.045; range: 2 syringes per 10 injection events, to 3 syringes per 10,000 injection events). In bivariate regression analyses, a 1 unit difference in the proportion of the population that was MSM per 1,000 was associated with a difference of 0.002 in SEP coverage (p=0.052); early SEP presence was associated with a difference of 0.038 in coverage (p=0.012); and having government funding was associated with a 0.040 difference in SEP coverage (p=0.021).
This analysis suggests that longer duration of SEP presence may increase syringe distribution and enhance successful programme utilization. Furthermore, MSAs with greater proportions of MSM tend to have better SEP coverage, perhaps providing further evidence that grassroots activism plays an important role in programme implementation and successful SEP coverage. This research provides evidence that government funding for SEPs contributes to better syringe coverage.
syringe exchange programmes; coverage; heroin injection events; government funding; grassroots activism
Access to sterile syringes is a proven means of reducing the transmission of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), viral hepatitis, and bacterial infections among injection drug users. In many U.S. states and territories, drug paraphernalia and syringe prescription laws are barriers to syringe access for injection drug users (IDUs): pharmacists may be reluctant to sell syringes to suspected IDUs, and police may confiscate syringes or arrest IDUs who cannot demonstrate a "legitimate" medical need for the syringes they possess. These barriers can be addressed by physician prescription of syringes. This study evaluates physicians' willingness to prescribe syringes, using the theory of planned behavior to identify key behavioral influences.
We mailed a survey to a representative sample of physicians from the American Medical Association physician database. Non-responding physicians were then called, faxed, or re-sent the survey, up to four times.
Twenty percent responded to the survey. Although less than 1 percent of respondents had ever prescribed syringes to a known injection drug user, more than 60% of respondents reported that they would be willing to do so. Physicians' willingness to prescribe syringes was best predicted by the belief that it was a feasible and effective intervention, but individual and peer attitudes were also significant.
This was the first nationwide survey of the physician willingness to prescribe syringes to IDUs. While the majority of respondents were willing to consider syringe prescription in their clinical practices, multiple challenges need to be addressed in order to improve physician knowledge and attitudes toward IDUs.
Syringe exchange programs (SEPs) have been shown to be highly effective in reducing HIV transmission among injection drug users (IDUs). Despite this evidence, SEPs have not been implemented in many communities experiencing HIV epidemics among IDUs. We interviewed 17 key informants in nine U.S. cities to identify factors and conditions that facilitated or deterred the adoption of SEPs. Cities were selected to represent diversity in size, geographic location, AIDS incidence rates, and SEP implementation. Key informants included HIV prevention providers, political leaders, community activists, substance use and AIDS researchers, and health department directors. SEPs were established by one or more of three types of implementation models: (a) broad community coalition support, (b) community activist initiative, and (c) top-down decision making by government authorities. In each model, coalition building and community consultation were critical steps for the acceptance and sustainability of SEPs. When others were not prepared to act, community activists spearheaded SEP development, taking risks in the face of opposition, but often lacked the resources to sustain their efforts. Leadership from politicians and public health officials provided needed authority, clout, and access to resources. Researchers and scientific findings lent force and legitimacy to the effort. Rather than adopting adversarial positions, successful SEP implementers worked with or avoided the opposition. Fear of repercussions and lack of leadership were the greatest barriers to implementing SEPs. Communities that successfully implemented SEPs were those with activists willing to push the agenda, public officials willing to exercise leadership, researchers able to present authoritative findings, and proponents who effectively mobilized resources and worked to build community coalitions, using persistent but nonadversarial advocacy.
The two main legal sources of clean needles for illicit injection drug users (IDUs) in California are syringe exchange programs (SEPs) and nonprescription syringe sales (NPSS) at pharmacies. In 2004, California became one of the last states to allow NPSS. To evaluate the implementation of NPSS and the California Disease Prevention Demonstration Project (DPDP), we conducted syringe purchase tests in San Francisco (SF) and Los Angeles (LA) between March and July of 2010. Large differences in implementation were observed in the two cities. In LA, less than one-quarter of the enrolled pharmacies sold syringes to our research assistant (RA), and none sold a single syringe. The rate of successful purchase in LA is the lowest reported in any syringe purchase test. In both sites, there was notable variation among the gauge size available, and price and quantity of syringes required for a purchase. None of the DPDP pharmacies in LA or SF provided the requisite health information. The findings suggest that more outreach needs to be conducted with pharmacists and pharmacy staff. The pharmacies' failure to disseminate the educational materials may result in missed opportunities to provide needed harm reduction information to IDUs. The varied prices and required quantities may serve as a barrier to syringe access among IDUs. Future research needs to examine reasons why pharmacies do not provide the mandated information, whether the omission of disposal options is indicative of pharmacies' reluctance to serve as disposal sites, and if the dual opt-in approach of NPSS/DPDP is a barrier to pharmacy enrollment.
Nonprescription syringe sales; IDU; SB1159; California; Pharmacy; Policy
Background: Injection drug use and other high-risk behaviours are the cause of significant morbidity and mortality and thus have been the focus of many health promotion strategies. Community pharmacists are considered underutilized health providers and are often thought to be more accessible than other health professionals. The purpose of this review is to provide an overview of community pharmacists' practices as well as pharmacists' attitudes and identified barriers toward providing harm reduction services. We will highlight the major harm reduction services being offered through community pharmacies, as well as identify barriers to implementing these services.
Methods: A review of the literature from 1995 to 2011 was conducted using the electronic databases MEDLINE, PubMed and Scopus, encompassing pharmacists' involvement in harm reduction services. Keywords included pharmacist, harm reduction, disease prevention, health promotion, attitudes, competence and barriers. References of included articles were examined to identify further relevant literature.
Results: Pharmacists are primarily involved in providing clean needles to injection drug users, as well as opioid substitution. Pharmacists generally have a positive attitude toward providing health promotion and harm reduction programs and express some interest in increasing their role in this area. Common barriers to expanding harm reduction strategies in community pharmacists' practice include lack of time and training, insufficient remuneration, fear of attracting unruly clientele and inadequate communication between health providers.
Conclusion: As one of the most accessible health care providers, community pharmacists are in an ideal position to provide meaningful services to injection drug users. However, in order to do so, pharmacists require additional support in the form of better health team and system integration, as well as remuneration models.
OBJECTIVE--To determine the current and potential roles of community pharmacists in the prevention of AIDS among misusers of injected drugs. DESIGN--Cross sectional postal survey of a one in four random sample of registered pharmacies in England and Wales. SETTING--Project conducted in the addiction research unit of the Institute of Psychiatry, London. SUBJECTS--2469 Community pharmacies in the 15 regional health authorities in England and Wales. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Willingness of pharmacists to sell injecting equipment to known or suspected misusers of drugs; pharmacists' attitudes to syringe exchange schemes, keeping a "sharps" box for use by misusers of drugs, and offering face to face advice and leaflets; and opinions of community pharmacists on their role in AIDS prevention and drug misuse. RESULTS--1946 Questionnaires were returned, representing a response rate of 79%. This fell short of the target of one in four pharmacies in each family practitioner committee area in England and Wales, and total numbers of respondents were therefore weighted in inverse proportion to the response rate in each area. The findings disclosed a substantial demand for injecting equipment by drug misusers. After weighting of numbers of respondents an estimated 676 of 2434 pharmacies were currently selling injecting equipment and 65 of 2415 (3%) were participating in local syringe exchange schemes; only 94 of 2410 pharmacies (4%) had a sharps box for used equipment. There was a high degree of concern among pharmacists about particular consequences of drug misusers visiting their premises, along with a widespread acceptance that the community pharmacist had an important part to play. CONCLUSIONS--Promoting the participation of community pharmacists in the prevention of AIDS among misusers of injected drugs is a viable policy, but several problems would need to be overcome before it was implemented.