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Single use syringe warning

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The English National Needle Exchange Forum (NNEF), the UK Harm Reduction Alliance (UKHRA) and Action on Hepatitis C (AHC) have raised concerns about the introduction of 'difficult to reuse syringes' (DTRS) to needle and syringe exchange programmes.

There are many types of DTRS, each with a different mechanism to prevent a syringe being used more than once. They were developed for hospitals and other health care settings where they can prevent the inadvertent re-use of syringes.

Although it might seem that supplying these syringes to illicit drug users would reduce needle and syringe sharing, it is widely believed that their introduction would lead to those syringes already in circulation being kept, re-used and shared more frequently - leading to an increase in hepatitis C and HIV transmission.

Lambeth and Lewisham Health Authority switched to the new syringes in May, but their introduction at Mainliners was a disaster. In a report presented to the NNEF meeting on Friday 8th June, Garry Sutton said that within days of their introduction a number of problems were identified by users of the service including poor quality needles, 'bendy plungers' and difficulties drawing up. The result was clients refusing to take the new syringes, preferring to go without until supplies of 'traditional' insulin syringes were arranged.

Delegates at the NNEF meeting, UKHRA and AHC have all advised needle exchanges not to introduce these syringes and to liaise with their syringe suppliers, in order to prevent them falling victim to health authorities switching their block purchasing contracts without making special provision for needle exchanges.

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