Journal of Urban Health

, 86:946 | Cite as

Who Purchases Nonprescription Syringes? Characterizing Customers of the Expanded Syringe Access Program (ESAP)

  • Haven B. BattlesEmail author
  • Kirsten A. Rowe
  • Christina Ortega-Peluso
  • Susan J. Klein
  • James M. Tesoriero


This study represents the first attempt in the USA to survey pharmacy nonprescription syringe customers at their point of purchase. We surveyed 62 individuals purchasing nonprescription syringes in seven pharmacies located in NYC and Albany, NY, USA. Three quarters of respondents purchased for illicit use, and 36% purchased for medical use, with differences found by race and gender. Half got their syringes from pharmacies “most of the time.” Half had ever been refused a syringe purchase in a NYS pharmacy, with men, Blacks, and Hispanics reporting higher levels of refusals than women or whites. Two thirds reported syringe reuse but very few reported sharing. While approximately one quarter safely obtained and disposed of syringes “most of the time,” two thirds used both safe and unsafe methods. Pharmacy-based syringe access programs are essential in areas not served by syringe exchanges.


Injection drug use Syringe access ESAP Harm reduction Syringe disposal Blood-borne disease transmission Pharmacy customer 



The authors would like to acknowledge the two community-based organizations that helped us recruit pharmacies into the study, Centro Civico of Amsterdam, NY, USA, and VIP Community Services of Bronx, NY, USA. We would also like to thank the pharmacy staff who worked diligently to collect the data and the pharmacy customers who shared their experiences with us. Finally, we thank our colleagues, Wesley Badillo and Alma Candelas for their invaluable insight and assistance in conducting this study.

This study was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Public Health Law Program R06/CCR223388.


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Copyright information

© The New York Academy of Medicine 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Haven B. Battles
    • 1
    Email author
  • Kirsten A. Rowe
    • 1
  • Christina Ortega-Peluso
    • 1
  • Susan J. Klein
    • 1
  • James M. Tesoriero
    • 1
  1. 1.New York State Department of Health AIDS InstituteAlbanyUSA

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