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Letter on Former President Clinton’s Mea Culpa on Needle Exchange Programs

Bigger Apology is Needed

This Letter to the Editor, by Health Research Group Deputy Director Peter Lurie, M.D., M.P.H. appeared in the July 31, 2002 edition of the Wall Street Journal

Former President Clinton has recently acknowledged that “I was wrong” for not heeding the masses of scientific evidence and legalizing needle-exchange programs (July 12 WSJ). 

But there are 17,000 individuals to whom Mr. Clinton really owes an apology. We have estimated in the British medical journal, The Lancet, that up to 17,000 HIV infections in the U.S. could have been prevented by needle exchanges during Mr. Clinton’s terms. What would a now-contrite Mr. Clinton say were he forced to face those drug users, their partners and their babies who were unnecessarily infected on his watch because clean needles were not available?

Peter Lurie, M.D. 
Deputy Director
Public Citizen’s Health Research Group

Ernest Drucker, Ph.D. 
Professor of Epidemiology and Social Medicine
Montefiore Medical Center