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How to Properly Dispose of Pharmaceutical Waste

How to Properly Dispose of Pharmaceutical Waste

The average pharmacy is in a constant state of being busy and the daily focus goes beyond filling prescriptions. Between addressing patient questions, getting scripts adjudicated, and talking about medicinal interactions, there seems to be very little time for anything else. However, one of the most critical areas in a pharmacy for safety and compliance is the proper disposal of pharmaceutical waste. Once staff members are trained for the methods of disposal, the process becomes second nature.

Separation of Biohazard waste from pharmaceutical waste

Biohazard waste needs to have a high level of attention in segregating it from standard pharmaceutical waste. Biohazard waste must have special treatment to ensure that it is sterilized and safe before it is placed in any landfill. Place biohazard waste in the specially designed and labeled red containers so that a licensed and professional medical waste disposal company such as Healthcare Waste Management can ensure that it is treated appropriately.

Identify and Segregate Controlled Substances

Controlled substances must be handled and destroyed so that the substance is rendered useless. States may have their own specific laws on how controlled substances are transported and destroyed as well as the requirement of a licensed reverse distributor. The DEA (U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency) has established strict guidelines on the methods of destruction and mandated documents of proof required for each controlled substance schedule level.

Specific Handling of Trace Chemotherapy Waste

The Environmental Protection Agency has established a guideline to recognize “trace chemotherapy waste” as any item that was exposed to or contains remnants of chemotherapy waste that is not considered to be completely empty. This trace chemotherapy waste can be dangerous to the public and must be treated so that it is rendered harmless before it can be disposed of. In the pharmacy this type of waste can be in a variety of forms, from gloves and medication vials to tubing. All trace chemotherapy waste is to be separated and placed in the FDA compliant yellow containers for pickup by a professional disposal company such as Healthcare Waste Management.

Know How to Identify and Separate Hazardous Waste

Hazardous waste can include chemicals as well as some types of medication. The Environmental Protection Agency has identified specific medications such as lindane, warfarin, and mitomycin, along with a complete list of hazardous medications so that pharmacies can comply with the RCRA (Resource Conservation and Recovery Act) to keep these dangerous elements away from the public and landfills. Staff should be trained in identifying and segregating hazardous waste so that it is placed in a labeled FDA approved black containers that will be picked up by a certified disposal company such as Healthcare Waste Management and disposed of according to the state and federal guidelines.

Everything Left Over After Segregation

Once you have removed all of the hazardous waste, controlled substances, and trace chemotherapy, everything else is considered to be non-hazardous pharmaceutical waste.  This waste should be placed in an FDA approved white container with an exterior label so that a licensed medical waste disposal company such as Healthcare Waste Management can identify it and treat it so that it according to state and federal guidelines.

Partner with a Certified Medical Waste Disposal Company

To ensure that a pharmacy complies with all of the laws for safety it is recommended that you contract with a certified and trained medical waste disposal company such as Healthcare Waste Management. Pharmacies can benefit from the knowledge as well as making sure that as a generator, you comply with all of the laws established by the DEA, EPA, and DOT (Department of Transportation). Healthcare Waste Management will also act as a consultant to work with staff and offers online training programs.


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