Journal of Urban Health

, Volume 86, Issue 6, pp 929–945 | Cite as

Temporal Trends in Spatial Access to Pharmacies that Sell Over-the-Counter Syringes in New York City Health Districts: Relationship to Local Racial/Ethnic Composition and Need

  • Hannah L. F. CooperEmail author
  • Brian H. Bossak
  • Barbara Tempalski
  • Samuel R. Friedman
  • Don C. Des Jarlais


Pharmacies that sell over-the-counter (OTC) syringes are a major source of sterile syringes for injection drug users in cities and states where such sales are legal. In these cities and states, however, black injectors are markedly less likely to acquire syringes from pharmacies than white injectors. The present analysis documents spatial and temporal trends in OTC pharmacy access in New York City health districts over time (2001–2006) and investigates whether these trends are related to district racial/ethnic composition and to local need for OTC pharmacies. For each year of the study period, we used kernel density estimation methods to characterize spatial access to OTC pharmacies within each health district. Higher values on this measure indicate better access to these pharmacies. “Need” was operationalized using two different measures: the number of newly diagnosed injection-related AIDS cases per 10,000 residents (averaged across 1999–2001), and the number of drug-related hospital discharges per 10,000 residents (averaged across 1999–2001). District sociodemographic characteristics were assessed using 2000 US decennial census data. We used hierarchical linear models (HLM) for descriptive and inferential analyses and investigated whether the relationship between need and temporal trajectories in the Expanded Syringe Access Demonstration Program access varied by district racial/ethnic composition, controlling for district poverty rates. HLM analyses indicate that the mean spatial access to OTC pharmacies across New York City health districts was 12.71 in 2001 and increased linearly by 1.32 units annually thereafter. Temporal trajectories in spatial access to OTC pharmacies depended on both need and racial/ethnic composition. Within high-need districts, OTC pharmacy access was twice as high in 2001 and increased three times faster annually, in districts with higher proportions of non-Hispanic white residents than in districts with low proportions of these residents. In low-need districts, “whiter” districts had substantially greater baseline access to OTC pharmacies than districts with low proportions of non-Hispanic white residents. Access remained stable thereafter in low-need districts, regardless of racial/ethnic composition. Conclusions were consistent across both measures of “need” and persisted after controlling for local poverty rates. In both high- and low-need districts, spatial access to OTC pharmacies was greater in “Whiter” districts in 2001; in high-need districts, access also increased more rapidly over time in “whiter” districts. Ensuring equitable spatial access to OTC pharmacies may reduce injection-related HIV transmission overall and reduce racial/ethnic disparities in HIV incidence among injectors.


HIV/AIDS Injection drug use Harm reduction Geography Health service access Health disparities 



We would like to thank the New York State Department of Health for sharing its data on the addresses and enrollment dates of pharmacies participating in the Expanded Syringe Access Demonstration Program. In particular, we would like to thank Ms. Alma Candelas and Ms. Maxine Phillips. This research was supported by a NIDA grant entitled “Spatial Variations in IDU HIV Risk: Relationship to Structural Interventions” (1R21DA023391-01).

Supplementary material

11524_2009_9399_MOESM1_ESM.doc (46 kb)
Online Table 1 (DOC 45 kb)


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Copyright information

© The New York Academy of Medicine 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hannah L. F. Cooper
    • 1
    Email author
  • Brian H. Bossak
    • 2
  • Barbara Tempalski
    • 3
  • Samuel R. Friedman
    • 3
  • Don C. Des Jarlais
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Rollins School of Public HealthEmory UniversityAtlantaUSA
  2. 2.Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public HealthGeorgia Southern UniversityStatesboroUSA
  3. 3.National Development and Research Institutes (NDRI)New YorkUSA
  4. 4.Baron Edmond de Rothschild Chemical Dependency InstituteBeth Israel Medical CenterNew YorkUSA

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