Is crime associated with over-the-counter pharmacy syringe sales? Findings from Los Angeles, California

Thomas J. Stopka, Estella M. Geraghty, Rahman Azari, Ellen B Gold, Kathryn DeRiemer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Background: More than 50,000 new HIV infections occur annually in the United States. Injection drug users represent twelve percent of incident HIV infections each year. Pharmacy sales of over-the-counter (OTC) syringes have helped prevent HIV transmission among injection drug users in many states throughout the United States. However, concerns exist among some law enforcement officials, policymakers, pharmacists, and community members about potential links between OTC syringe sales and crime. Methods: We used a geographic information system and novel spatial and longitudinal analyses to determine whether implementation of pharmacy-based OTC syringe sales were associated with reported crime between January 2006 and December 2008 in Los Angeles Police Department Reporting Districts. We assessed reported crime pre- and post-OTC syringe sales initiation as well as longitudinal associations between crime and OTC syringe-selling pharmacies. Results: By December 2008, 9.3% (94/1010) of Los Angeles Police Department Reporting Districts had at least one OTC syringe-selling pharmacy. Overall reported crime counts and reported crime rates decreased between 2006 and 2008 in all 1010 Reporting Districts. Using generalized estimating equations and adjusting for potential confounders, reported crime rates were negatively associated with OTC syringe sales (adjusted rate ratio: 0.89; 95% confidence interval: 0.81, 0.99). Conclusion: Our findings demonstrate that OTC pharmacy syringe sales were not associated with increases in reported crime in local communities in Los Angeles during 2006-2008.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)244-250
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Drug Policy
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2014


  • Crime
  • GIS
  • Longitudinal analysis
  • Pharmacies
  • Syringe distribution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Health Policy
  • Medicine(all)


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