Qld Pharmacies working with Biala Needle Exchange

felix's picture

If you've been a junkie in Brisbane for the last five years or more, you have probably noticed the decline in availability of clean needles from chemists. 

A decade ago I worked in Toowong. If  I needed clean needles I coudl go to a chemist on Sherwood Road or cut across to Indooroopilly Shoppingtown to buy some there. Not cheap, the usual $5-$8 for 5 sharps, but at least they were available.

I wrote an article here on 24th September 2012, about how it was harder to score sharps than gear on that day.  It was quite a depressing realisation, that Brisbane had returned to its morality-based economics.  One chemist I rang that day asked me if I was diabetic.  The inference was that if you were injecting a substance with two polypeptide chains you could use clean equipment - if not, then you should just wash out a dirty sharp. Anyone's.

Conditions had degraded over time. The great work of Blewett and thousands and thousands of volunteer needle exchange workers, places like Biala, eduucation programs, it was all being lost.

The most recent development has been the ability to buy (from certain chemists - and Biala does keep a list pinned up on their wall) a brown paper bagged sharps kit, the same kind that Biala provide, only from chemists.  Apparently there is an agreement for the chemists to charge no more than $3 for the kits they obtain for free. I believe methadone dispensing works on a similar system, with the drug being provided to the chemists for free, and the weekly fee they charge is meant to relate to the servcie the chemists provided.

I once worked out that with the number of junkies my chemist had on their roster, if they all paid the same $41 a week that I paid, yes, $2,132 a year, then we were paying the wages for both the fulltime junior pharmacists working there. Not a bad earner, considering the brand loyalty that methadone generates, plus the single source of supply, and the requirement to always pick it up - slip 2 days and it's back to the men in white coats ...

So, lookout for these brown-bagged kits at your chemist.  I would much rather support a chemist that is particpating to some degree in the distribution of clean equipment, than maybe save a couple of bucks at a chainstore warehouse chemist that wouldn't dream of providing a clean sharp to a junkie, even with the infinite markup.

I would love to hear any of your war stories of obtaining sharps...Or maybe a tale from the Fuji Angel days?



sayarsan's picture

Roll right up and read the string from a couple of years back where this issue was addressed. 'Fuji Angels' is the trade mark for a disposable syringe made in Japan. To my knowledge they were only sold in one chemist over a year or two in the late 70's. I checked  Google to no avail, Wikipedia gave a reference to an article about Brisbane Bands in the late 70's; ironically the band was named after the syringe, and Google Images had lots of images but none remotely like a hypodermic syringe.

  this will have to do.


To look at this issue requires some correspondence at least to get some feedback from the Pharmacy Guild, the Health Department and a few service providers would be a start. Considering it takes me several edits to produce each letter and allowing for time awaiting replies the sooner I  make a start the better.