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Evaluating Pharmaceutical Wastes

Evaluating Pharmaceutical Wastes

As the science of medical and health treatments has advanced, the role of pharmacies has become more intricate and the products that they carry more complicated. Today’s medicines and over-the-counter items have expanded into a variety of potentially dangerous compositions, and with pharmacies now involved in vaccinations, there is an increase in the number of sharps that are generated.

To ensure safety of people and the community, each state has specific guidelines regarding the wastes that are generated by pharmacies.  The importance of proper handling and disposal of pharmaceutical wastes so that they do not cause harm, cannot be overstated. Classifying pharmaceutical wastes for disposal is a complex process that requires compliance with state and federal laws. Healthcare Waste Management is a professional company that maintains up-to-date knowledge for all local and state regulations for the states that we serve.

Types of Pharmaceutical Wastes

Unless a pharmaceutical waste has been identified as non-hazardous, it must be assumed to be hazardous and treated as such for handling and disposal. Medications are classified into specific categories for identification and disposal, however, with so many medications now approved for over-the-counter use, the list has become a lot more extensive based on chemical composition. The previous practices in most states of discarding medications by flushing them into the wastewater system is no longer an acceptable method. Prescription drugs deemed both hazardous and non-hazardous are returned in drug take back programs across the country.

A list of pharmaceutical waste from a pharmacy today can include prescription drugs, dietary supplements, OTC (over the counter) drugs, inhalers, homeopathic drugs, vaping liquids, medicated patches, gums, and lozenges; hypodermic needles used in vaccines/shots, containers/equipment that may be contaminated with any of these wastes when they are unusable for any reason.

General Methods of Evaluation

The FDA (Federal Drug Administration) has specific category listings for certain hazardous drugs that are based on the ingredients. U-listed and P-listed pharmaceuticals are those medications that are hazardous and include some of the most common drugs.

Identifying whether a pharmaceutical is hazardous waste is based on whether it falls into any of the four characteristics of toxicity, ignitability, corrosivity, and reactivity. Most pharmaceutical waste falls into the categories of toxicity and ignitability with a rare occurrence of reactivity and corrosivity.

Specific Methods of Evaluation

Both the FDA and the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) are involved in determining the status and classification of pharmaceutical wastes. Most states follow these established guidelines for the determination of safe handling and disposal of pharmaceutical wastes. Specific evaluation methods may differ from state to state. For any questions regarding pharmaceutical waste status, contact the professionals at Healthcare Waste Management.


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