How can patients safely dispose of a spent or expired inhaler? The answer largely depends on the medication in the inhaler and your local disposal regulations.
There are many patients who rely on inhaled medication to control and treat a myriad of pulmonary diseases. An inhaler is a medical device used for delivering this type of medication via the lungs. How can patients safely dispose of a spent or expired inhaler? The answer largely depends on the medication in the inhaler and your local disposal regulations. There are no universal disposal methods for inhalers, especially since these devices are pressurized and some may explode if incinerated.
According to the FDA, inhalers used to contain chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), a propellant that damages the protective ozone layer. CFCs have been phased out of inhalers and are being replaced with more environmentally friendly inhaler propellants.
As far as disposing old, expired, or unused inhalers, look to the packaging. Many inhalers can be dangerous if punctured or exposed to fire.
Inhalers fall under pharmaceutical waste, and as such any unneeded medication should be disposed of in special ways to ensure that pets, children, and other people cannot consume them. However, you should not flush this medication down the toilet. Instead, the best way to dispose of your medication is through a medicine take-back program.
Talk to your pharmacist or contact your local garbage/recycling department to learn about take-back programs in your community. Pharmaceutical companies also offer inhaler recycling programs through local pharmacies. Patients simply return their empty inhalers when they collect a new one. The pharmacist sends the inhalers to a recycling partner, where the plastics are separated for re-manufacturing and any remaining aerosol propellant is captured.
Pharmaceutical waste management is a long and complicated topic that falls within the hub of hazardous waste management. Many studies conducted in the U.S. have revealed pharmaceutical compounds in both surface and ground waters, and it’s because of this that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has ruled on Management Standards for Hazardous Waste Pharmaceuticals.
Red Bags is your industry expert on the management of highly complex and multi-discipline waste management programs, including pharmaceutical waste and inhaler recycling.