Predicting pharmacy syringe sales to people who inject drugs: Policy, practice and perceptions

Beth E. Meyerson, Alissa Davis, Jon D. Agley, David J. Shannon, Carrie A. Lawrence, Priscilla T. Ryder, Karleen Ritchie, Ruth Gassman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Background: Pharmacies have much to contribute to the health of people who inject drugs (PWID) and to community efforts in HIV and hepatitis C (HCV) prevention through syringe access. However, little is known about what predicts pharmacy syringe sales without a prescription. Objective: To identify factors predicting pharmacy syringes sales to PWID. Methods: A hybrid staggered online survey of 298 Indiana community pharmacists occurred from July-September 2016 measuring pharmacy policy, practice, and pharmacist perceptions about syringe sales to PWID. Separate bivariate logistical regressions were followed by multivariable logistic regression to predict pharmacy syringe sales and pharmacist comfort dispensing syringes to PWID. Results: Half (50.5%) of Indiana pharmacies sold syringes without a prescription to PWID. Pharmacy syringe sales was strongly associated with pharmacist supportive beliefs about syringe access by PWID and their comfort level selling syringes to PWID. Notably, pharmacies located in communities with high rates of opioid overdose mortality were 56% less likely to sell syringes without a prescription than those in communities with lower rates. Pharmacist comfort dispensing syringes was associated with being male, working at a pharmacy that sold syringes to PWID and one that stocked naloxone, having been asked about syringe access by medical providers, and agreement that PWID should be able to buy syringes without a prescription. Conclusions: As communities with high rates of opioid overdose mortality were less likely to have pharmacies that dispensed syringes to PWID, a concerted effort with these communities and their pharmacies should be made to understand opportunities to increase syringe access. Future studies should explore nuances between theoretical support for syringe access by PWID without a prescription and actual dispensing behaviors. Addressing potential policy conflicts and offering continuing education on non-prescription syringe distribution for pharmacists may improve comfort distributing syringes to PWID, and therefore increase pharmacy syringe sales.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)46-53
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Drug Policy
StatePublished - Jun 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • HIV prevention
  • Hepatitis C prevention
  • Pharmacy public health
  • Syringe access

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Health Policy


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