Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Applied Sciences Honours


Faculty of Health and Human Sciences

First Advisor

Celia Wilkinson


Since 1986 in Western Australia many pharmacists have been supplying needles and syringes to injecting drug users as part of the governments's harm minimisation policy to prevent the spread of HIVI AIDS and other blood-borne viruses, particularly the more recently recognised hepatitis C. This practice was technically illegal, although officially condoned, until May 1994. Adequate baseline data not was available concerning needle and syringe supply or the attitudes of pharmacists concerning this issue. In this study a mail survey of Western Australian community pharmacists was conducted to determine the proportion of pharmacists currently supplying needles and syringes to injecting drug users, the factors that have influenced supply practice over time and the factors differentiating between current sellers and nonsellers. A stratified random sample of 130 pharmacists was selected from the population of 466 metropolitan and country pharmacists. the mail-out pharmacists were telephoned to inform them of the study, ask them to participate and ascertain their supply practice, after which questionnaires were posted to consenting pharmacists. Two follow-up calls were made to non-respondents. From 129 forwarded 115 useable questionnaires were returned comprising 74 from the city and 41 from the country, a response rate of 88%. The results found that 88% of pharmacists were currently supplying needles and syringes to injecting drug users, 86% of metropolitan and 90% of country pharmacists. Eight percent of pharmacists were past sellers and 4% had never sold. The commonest factors rated by current sellers as important in their decision to supply needles and syringes was the belief that it was essential to the reduction of the transmission of disease ( 92%) and belief that disruption was unlikely to occur (78%). Disruption in their pharmacy (89%) and threatening incidents (78%) were the main reasons past sellers ceased supply. The major differentiating factor concerning supply practice was that nonsellers were more likely than sellers to have experienced disruptive incidents in their pharmacy, r (113) = .37 p< .01. The findings indicate that the vast majority of pharmacists currently supply needles and syringes and were not unduly influenced by the former legal sanctions. There are some implications for support and/or training for pharmacists in relation to needle and syringe supply.