Many people rely on needles, lancets or syringes to manage medical conditions and maintain their health. Pharmacy plays an important role in the community by providing safe methods of disposal and sterile injecting equipment for customers who use sharps.
The PNSP is funded via Queensland Health and is administered by The Pharmacy Guild of Australia, Queensland Branch.
As part of the PNSP, participating community pharmacies:
* The provision of the bin is contingent on Queensland Health funding, PNSP capacity and the availabiltiy of sharps disposal contractor in your pharmacy’s area (if a contractor is not available in your area, the Guild will make contact with you to discuss options).
In Australia, the program is the single most important and cost-effective strategy in reducing drug-related harm among injecting drug users. Australian governments invested $130 million in Needle and Syringe Programs between 1991 and 2000 resulting in the prevention of an estimated 25,000 HIV infections and 21,000 hepatitis C infections, with savings from avoided treatment costs of up to $7.8 billion (1).
Needle and Syringe Programs are an important public health measure. These programs have successfully reduced the a) re-using of injecting equipment thus reducing injection-related harms and b) sharing of injecting equipment therefore preventing the spread of HIV among people who inject drugs. Needle and Syringe Programs do not condone illegal behaviours such as injecting drug use, but acknowledges that these behaviours occur despite vigorous efforts to reduce supply and demand.
In Australia, the availability of the NSP has helped decrease the incidence of viral hepatitis B, C and HIV amongst people who inject drugs and the wider community. In some countries where Needle and Syringe Programs were not established in time (e.g. United States and parts of Europe), the incidence of these infections is much higher than Australia.2 For example, the level of HIV infection among people who inject drugs has remained around 1% in Australia , compared to over 50% in other countries.2
There is no limit as to how many sharps kits a client can purchase at any one time in a PNSP pharmacy. Pharmacies can, and should, sell as many sharps kits to clients as requested. The purpose of suppling subsidised sterile injecting equipment to clients is to minimise re-use and sharing of needles and syringes.
Since December 2017, new Terumo Unisharp 1mL 27G (gauge) syringes have now replaced the existing Korean manufactured 1ml syringe. The change of the syringes is in response to client complaints on the apparent bluntness of the needle of the current syringe and other concerns (such as barbing and difficulty in withdrawing).
The new syringes come in five colours – green, white, yellow, lavender and blue. They will be available in the DS-121 (5 pack 1mLs) and DS-123 and (20 pack 1mL) PNSP sharps kits. The other types of PNSP sharps kits will not be affected (DS-124, 125, 218). A single sharps kit will contain syringes in the same colour. Sharps kits within a single carton should contain the same coloured syringes but this cannot be guaranteed. Different cartons will have different coloured sharps kits/ syringes.
Pharmacies with stock of the current sharps kits are not required to order/stock the new syringes/sharps kits immediately and can decrease existing stock over time. It is not possible to procure the “old” sharps kits once the change takes place.
For more information, please view this flyer.
Primary and Secondary Needle and Syringe Program sites offer support services and referral services for injecting drug users. Click here for a list of all the primary and secondary sites in Queensland.
For information regarding the location of your nearest alcohol, tobacco and other drug service, please call the 24-hour Alcohol and Drug Information Service on 1800 177 833.
The aim of the PNSP is to reduce the incidence of blood borne viruses and injecting related injuries and disease.
The following documents maybe be useful to educate about safe injecting practices and ways to minimise the transmission of various infections.
Community generated sharps waste must be housed in a rigid-walled, puncture resistant container with a secure lid. This is the safest way to minimise the risk of a needle stick injury to anyone who may come into contact with the sharps waste. This includes customers, pharmacy staff and the contractors who collect the 120L sharps disposal bins. If a customer returns sharps waste in an inappropriate container or as loose sharps, the staff member should inform the customer that the pharmacy is unable to accept sharps waste unless contained in an appropriate sharps disposal container. The staff member can offer the customer the option of purchasing an appropriate sharps disposal container if available.The customer should place the used sharps in the purchased appropriate sharps disposal container. Appropriate sharps disposal containers (e.g. 1.4L, 1.5L or 3.1L) can be purchased by pharmacies to sell from several pharmacy wholesalers.
It is important for community safety to encourage your customers to return their sharps waste to your pharmacy for safe disposal. Please advise customers that they CANNOT dispose of their used/full sharps disposal containers in their recycling bin.
Click here for the Pharmacy Needle and Syringe Program Sharps Disposal Poster.
If a loose needle or syringe is found, the preferred option for disposal is to contact the Needle Clean Up Hotline (1800 633 353) or local council in your area. They will usually arrange for the needle and syringe to be collected within 48 hours.
Alternatively, the loose needle or syringe can placed in an appropriate sharps disposal container to be disposed of. If this is unavailable, the loose needle or syringe should be placed in a rigid-walled, puncture resistant hard plastic container with a securable screw top. It is important not to attempt to replace the cap on the needle and to pick up the needle or syringe by the barrel or plunger (keep away from the sharp end of the needle). Gloves and other protective equipment should be used at all times.
A suitable container for sharps waste must be rigid-walled and puncture resistant. Cardboard, plastic bags, plastic milk bottles, soft drink bottles, glass jars and plastic take-away containers are NOT suitable containers for sharps disposal. At least 18,000 healthcare professionals in Australia suffer from a needle stick injury every year#. It is important to ensure sharps waste is housed in an appropriate sharps disposal container to minimise the risk of needle stick injuries to customers, pharmacy staff and the contractors who collect the 120L sharps disposal bins. Needle stick injuries do pose a serious risk of blood-borne infections such as Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and HIV.
Click here for the Pharmacy Needle and Syringe Program Sharps Disposal Poster.
#Murphy C. Improved surveillance and mandated use of sharps with engineered sharp injury protections: a national call to action. Healthcare Infection. 2008. 13:33-1107
If a customer returns sharps waste in an inappropriate container or as loose sharps, the staff member should inform the customer that the pharmacy is unable to accept sharps waste unless contained in an appropriate sharps disposal container. The staff member can offer the customer the option of purchasing an appropriate sharps disposal container if available.The customer should place the used sharps in the purchased appropriate sharps disposal container. Appropriate sharps disposal containers (e.g. 1.4L, 1.5L or 3.1L) can be purchased by pharmacies to sell from several pharmacy wholesalers.
Customers can also be directed to the Queensland Clean Needle Helpline (1800 NEEDLE) or click here to view the location guides of public Needle and Syringe Program sites that accept community generated sharps waste. Your local city council can also offer alternative sharps waste disposal options.
It is advised that staff member do not try to retrieve the loose needle or syringe in the 120L sharps disposal bin for safety reasons (i.e. leave it alone). While it is undesirable to have loose sharps waste in the bin, it is understand that loose needles or syringes may fall out of improperly sealed approved sharps containers.
To support the provision of the Pharmacy Needle and Syringe Program, a variety of training options are available for your pharmacy staff including webinars and in store training. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Pharmacy's Little Helper is also a great resource which covers a variety of information relating to harm minimisation. Click here to download Pharmacy's Little Helper
Click here to download the order form Queensland Health sterile injecting equipment (sharps packs) are available free of charge to PNSP registered pharmacies for use in the sale to clients. Sharps packs must be sold at a set price of $3 (incl. GST) per pack as per the program requirements.
Due to the current COVID-19 situation, please note that there will be delivery delays given heavy logistical demands. Please allow more than 5-10 business days for processing and delivery. Orders for regional pharmacies may take longer.
Please note, sharps orders are processed twice weekly at 8am on Mondays and Wednesdays.
A retractable syringe is designed for the needle to spring back into the syringe barrel after sufficient pressure is applied by the user.1 The purpose of retractable syringes is to lower the risk of needle stick injury and prevent re-use and sharing.2
There is considerable community concerns on the potential for needle-stick injury and disease transmission posed by discarded needles/syringes in public places.3 There has been much debate regarding the use of retractable needles and syringe by injecting drug users.
While the theory and aim behind retractable syringes are valid, the retraction of the needle can cause blood to be splattered (even in microscopic amounts) and poses a health hazard as it can potentially facilitate the transmission of blood borne viruses and contamination of the surrounding.14 The powerful spring in retractable syringes may also cause vein and tissue damage as it recoils into the barrel (e.g. bruising and/or tearing).2 The recoil can also splatter the area with droplets of blood or used drug mixture, thus creating a potential for bacterial/viral infection and contamination.1-3 Pharmacy staff are advised to “exercise caution” if selling retractable syringes.1
1. Eng K, Grant D, Griffiths P. ANEX Bulletin (March/April 2011). Retractable syringes to include warning. Melborune: Penington Institute; 2011.
2. Supplies E. The retracable syringe debate [Internet]. Dorchester, UK: Exchange Supplies; [cited 6/04/2019]. Available from: https://www.exchangesupplies.org/article_retractable_and_safety_syringe_debate.php.
3. Dolan K, Dillon P, Silins E. Needle & syringe programs: your questions answered. Canberra: Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing; 2005.
WFI is the recommended water to be used when injecting drugs. However, they are not included in sharps packs due to concerns that they may encourage re-use of the WFI. Once an ampoule or bottle of WFI is opened, it is no longer sterile. The re-use of opened WFI can cause serious infections (e.g. phlebitis, septicaemia). Pharmacies are encourage to sell WFI ampoules to people purchasing sharps kits and to promote the use of water from a sterile source for injecting (e.g. WFI, cooled boiled water, distilled water). The use of bottled water carries the same reuse risk as WFI.
1. Dolan K, Dillon P, Silins E. Needle and Syringe programs: your questions answered. Canberra: Australia Government Department of Health and Ageing; 2005. Available from: http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/content/73934F5307F88EC7CA257BF0001E009F/$File/ques.pdf
2. QuIHN. A QuIHN guide to retractable syringes. Brisbane: QuIHN
3. Exchange Supplies. The retractable syringe debate. [internet]; cited 04/02/2016. Available from: http://www.exchangesupplies.org/article_retractable_and_safety_syringe_debate.php
Once initial registration has been finalised and the pharmacy has been accepted into the program a 120L sharps disposal bin will be ordered on your behalf and dispatched to your pharmacy. Please note that for registration to be finalised the pharmacy also needs to place an order with Queensland Health for sterile injecting equipment (sharps packs) as per the program requirements. Click here to order Queensland Health sterile injecting equipment (sharps packs).
Once acceptance into the PNSP, the pharmacy will be asked to sign a Waste Tracking Agreement. The sub-contractor will liaise with the pharmacy directly to facilitate this process.
The Waste Tracking Agreement allows the pharmacy, and contractors/sub-contractors, to meet obligations under Queensland's Environmental Protection Regulation 2008. Click here for more information.
The 120L sharps disposal bin needs to be stored in a lockable area. This means the bin needs to be located within the pharmacy and NOT outside the pharmacy. Pharmacies must have the 120L sharps disposal bin located in an area that cannot be easily accessed by unsupervised children.
The majority of 120L sharps disposal bins have a small chain that allows the lid of the bin to be locked. Pharmacies will need to purchase a small padlock to lock the bin. Locking the bin is recommended, but please ensure the bin is unlocked when the contractor collects the bin.
In the event of a needle stick injury the staff member should immediately notify their manager and be referred to their GP or local hospital for assessment. Click here for procedures and information regarding needle stick injuries
Please notify the PNSP Liaison Pharmacist on 07 3831 3788 within 48 hours of any needle stick injury. In addition, the pharmacy manager should document the incident in their incident reporting system.