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Eur Addict Res. 2001 Mar;7(1):40-5.

Multiple access to sterile syringes for injection drug users: vending machines, needle exchange programs and legal pharmacy sales in Marseille, France.

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  • 1INSERM Research Unit 379, 'Social Sciences Applied to Medical Innovation', Institut Paoli Calmettes, Marseille, France.



In Marseille, southeastern France, HIV prevention programs for injection drug users (IDUs) simultaneously include access to sterile syringes through needle exchange programs (NEPs), legal pharmacy sales and, since 1996, vending machines that mechanically exchange new syringes for used ones. The purpose of this study was to compare the characteristics of IDUs according to the site where they last obtained new syringes.


During 3 days in September 1997, all IDUs who obtained syringes from 32 pharmacies, four NEPs and three vending machines were offered the opportunity to complete a self-administered questionnaire on demographics, drug use characteristics and program utilization.


Of 485 individuals approached, the number who completed the questionnaire was 141 in pharmacies, 114 in NEPs and 88 at vending machines (response rate = 70.7%). Compared to NEP users, vending machine users were younger and less likely to be enrolled in a methadone program or to report being HIV infected, but more likely to misuse buprenorphine. They also had lower financial resources and were less likely to be heroin injectors than both pharmacy and NEP users.


Our results suggest that vending machines attract a very different group of IDUs than NEPs, and that both programs are useful adjuncts to legal pharmacy sales for covering the needs of IDUs for sterile syringes in a single city. Assessment of the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of combining such programs for the prevention of HIV and other infectious diseases among IDUs requires further comparative research.

Copyright 2001 S. Karger AG, Basel

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