5 Pharmaceutical Waste Disposal Best Practices

Here are some best practices for pharmaceutical waste disposal.

Pharmaceutical waste management is a long and complicated topic that falls within the hub of hazardous waste management.  If you manage a healthcare facility, hospital, assisted living facility, or even a pharmacy, it’s imperative to understand different pharmaceutical waste classifications and how to dispose of pharmaceutical waste safely and under the jurisdictions of local and federal laws. 

Here are some best practices for pharmaceutical waste disposal.

Narcotics/Controlled Substances

Controlled substances that are expired, excess, and unwanted must be disposed of according to DEA regulations.  For example, controlled substances in their original container which need to be disposed of should remain in the original container with the volume recorded. Facilities need to use the proper disposal form.

DEA controlled substances must also be disposed of through an authorized Reverse Distributor (any person that receives and accumulates potentially creditable hazardous waste pharmaceuticals).

Pharmaceutical Samples

Medical offices are busy facilities that manage more than just patients, but perhaps one less talked about necessity of medical management is the pharmaceutical sample closet that medical offices keep. Medications all come with expiration dates. Managers should routinely check the sample supply closet for expired samples and work with a certified medical waste hauler to safely dispose of them.

At-Home Disposal

While the FDA has and still recommends flushing certain medications depending on the state, this isn’t the best course of action for medication disposal. Putting unused medications down the drain or flushing them down the toilet may expose drinking water to the chemicals. This can cause ecological harm, as our current sewage treatment systems are not effective in removing all drugs from waterways. The best course of action is to research a take-back program. Law enforcement, public health, and environmental professionals feel that these programs are the safest and most responsible way to dispose of unwanted and expired medicines to protect your family and to protect our waters.

The same goes for tossing medication in the trash. It is not recommended to just place unused medication in a garbage can, rather add cat litter, coffee grounds, or some other unappealing material in an effort to cut down on the chances that a child or animal might eat the contents.

Vaccine Disposal

Vaccines are both sharps-related waste and pharmaceutical waste. Once a flu shot is safely administered to a patient, the provider must dispose of the sharp in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations. Always check with your supplier to see which, if any, of the unused vaccine can be returned. Used vials should go into the sharps container. If they are expired or recalled, and remain in their original packaging, they may be sent for incineration with your medical waste disposal company. Of course, be sure to check with your local state laws, as this may differ from state to state.

Compounded Medications

Some pharmacies compound medications on-site, therefore must dispose of compounds under federal and state law. These items are managed through a disposal system, just as with expired medications.

Understanding pharmaceutical waste practices doesn’t have to be difficult. Contact Red Bags to learn more about our detailed management programs for pharmaceutical waste.

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Pharmaceutical Waste Disposal Best Practices

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