Background: Pharmacists' role in harm reduction is expanding in many states, yet there are limited data on pharmacists' willingness to participate in harm reduction activities. This study assessed community pharmacists' willingness to participate in one harm reduction initiative: syringe/needle exchange.

Methods: In 2015, all Kentucky pharmacists with active licenses were emailed a survey that examined attitudes towards participation in syringe/needle exchange. Response frequencies were calculated for community pharmacist respondents. Ordinal logistic regression estimated the impact of community pharmacist characteristics and attitudes on willingness to provide clean needles/syringes to people who inject drugs and to dispose of used syringes/needles, where both dependent variables were defined as Likert-type questions on a scale of 1 (not at all willing) to 6 (very willing).

Results: Of 4699 practicing Kentucky pharmacists, 1282 pharmacists responded (response rate = 27.3%); the majority (n = 827) were community pharmacists. Community pharmacists were divided on willingness to provide clean needles/syringes, with 39.1% not willing (score 1 or 2 of 6) and 30% very willing (score 5 or 6 of 6). Few were willing to dispose of used needles/syringes, with only 18.7% willing. Community pharmacists who agreed that pharmacists could have significant public health impact by providing access to clean needles expressed 3.56 times more willingness to provide clean needles (95% CI 3.06-4.15), and 2.04 times more willingness to dispose of used needles (95% CI 1.77-2.35). Chain/supermarket pharmacists (n = 485, 58.6% of community pharmacies) were 39% less likely to express willingness to dispose of used needles (95% CI 0.43-0.87) when compared with independent community pharmacists (n = 342, 41.4% of community pharmacies). Independent pharmacists reported different barriers (workflow) than their chain/supermarket pharmacist colleagues (concerns of clientele).

Conclusions: Kentucky community pharmacists were more willing to provide clean needles than to dispose of used needles. Strategies to mitigate barriers to participation in syringe/needle exchange are warranted.

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Published in Harm Reduction Journal, v. 15, 4, p. 1-9.

© The Author(s). 2018

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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The datasets collected and analyzed in this study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

12954_2018_211_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (73 kB)
Additional file 1: Survey Instrument.

12954_2018_211_MOESM2_ESM.docx (15 kB)
Additional file 2: Table S1.