2003 Adopted Resolutions
71st Annual Meeting
Denver

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SUPPORT FOR PHYSICIAN PRESCRIPTION OF STERILE SYRINGES TO INJECTION DRUG USERS

WHEREAS, one-third of all AIDS cases and a substantial portion of other blood-borne diseases (such as Hepatitis B and C) in the United states are linked to injection drug use; and

WHEREAS, the U.S. Public Health Service recommends consistent, one-time use of sterile syringes obtained from reliable sources as a central risk reduction strategy for injection drug users who cannot or will not stop injecting; and

WHEREAS, injection drug users often share and reuse injection equipment because of legal and practical barriers they encounter in obtaining sterile equipment; and

WHEREAS, many injection drug users suffer from serious health problems (including drug overdoses, sexually transmitted diseases, liver disease, tuberculosis, abscesses, bacterial infections, and mental illness) but have few or no links to regular health care and social services due to the illicit nature of their drug use and the stigma attached to it; and

WHEREAS, physician prescription of sterile injection equipment offers a valuable option for injection drug users seeking to lower their risk of blood-borne disease transmission and has other important benefits including providing links to substance abuse treatment and other health care and social services; and

WHEREAS, a recent study indicated that physician prescription of injection equipment as a means of preventing disease transmission during drug use is clearly legal in 48 out of 52 jurisdictions (including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico) and in two other jurisdictions (Ohio and Oklahoma) physicians have a "reasonable claim to legality;" and

WHEREAS, it is also clearly legal for pharmacists to fill the prescriptions in 26 states (it is illegal only in Delaware, Kansas, Georgia, and Hawaii) and in 22 other jurisdictions pharmacists have a "reasonable claim to legality;" and

WHEREAS, despite the fact that physicians have broad discretion under the law to prescribe drugs and devices that they believe are medically beneficial to their patients, currently few physicians in the United States prescribe syringes to injection drug users; and

WHEREAS, several major medical and legal societies, including the American Medical Association, the Infectious Diseases Society of America, and the American Bar Association all support efforts to improve injection drug users access to sterile syringes, including physician prescription; and

WHEREAS, The United States Conference of Mayors has adopted two resolutions in support of expanded access to syringes by injection drug users as a public health strategy to decrease the transmission of blood-borne diseases (1997 resolution in support of needle exchange and 2000 resolution in support of removal of legal barriers to access to sterile syringes by injection drug users),

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that The United States Conference of Mayors supports the prescribing of injection equipment by physicians to patients who are addicted to injection drugs as a means of preventing the transmission of blood-borne diseases; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that prescription of injection equipment be done in conjunction with referrals to substance abuse treatment and other medical and social services.