Massachusetts doctors advocate needle exchange

The state medical society says programs help limit the spread of disease.

By Andis Robeznieks — Posted Feb. 23, 2004

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Only four states outlaw the possession of hypodermic needles and syringes and require them to be sold by prescription. The Massachusetts Medical Society is working to reduce that number to three: California, Delaware and New Jersey.

The MMS long has supported legalizing possession and sale without a prescription, but it hadn't really done anything to advance that position in the last four years. "We're making a new effort to make our position known," said MMS Media Relations Manager Richard Gulla.

This new effort included having MMS member Jeffrey Samet, MD, testify before a state Senate panel.

"I'm proud the medical society is carrying the flag and recognizing it for what is: a public health issue," said Dr. Samet, a professor of medicine and public health at Boston University School of Medicine.

Leonard Morse, MD, Worcester commissioner of public health and a former chair of the AMA Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs, said he wrote resolutions advocating deregulation for both the AMA and MMS in 1995 and both were passed without contradictory testimony. He called illicit drug use "a scourge," but said needle-exchange programs reduce the spread of infectious diseases and help addicts develop relationships with health care workers.

"That's the brass ring: getting your patient to recovery," Dr. Samet said.

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External links

Massachusetts Medical Society press release supporting legislation legalizing possession of hypodermic needles and syringes (link)

Text of Massachusetts state Senate bill 658 (link)

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