There are a variety of waste types in pharmaceutical waste, and there are state and federal laws that dictate how each type is handled, stored, and disposed of for the protection of people and the environment. It is critical to not only be aware of the waste stream types but of the various guidelines established for compliance in disposal. An additional hurdle is that while most are similar, some states vary in their own guidelines and requirements.
Design and implement a pharmaceutical waste program: This process requires that all staff members be aware of each step from the moment of pharmaceutical waste generation through to the final proper disposal method. All steps should be documented and all employees, staff and management trained.
Knowing all of the state and federal compliancy laws is a major challenge. Regulations established by the EPA, DOT, and RCRA apply to pharmaceutical waste by type. All should be aware of and segregate waste according to: waste categories, hazardous waste, trace and hazardous chemotherapy waste, standard/non-hazardous pharmaceutical waste, schedule levels for drugs, which chemicals are considered as hazardous, proper handling, labeling, containers, and ultimate disposal rules.
Best practices for non-regulated pharmaceutical wastes involves knowledge of which medications the CDC and EPA have identified as falling out of the current regulations for hazardous wastes. Many of these drugs include potentially dangerous antidepressants, antibiotics, anti-hypertensives, and other medications. While not listed as hazardous, it’s a good rule of thumb to create a best practices rule for those medications that fall out of the standard regulations. These pharmaceuticals could cause health and environmental harm if disposed of as standard waste. Using a best practices philosophy the drugs can be disposed of as hazardous waste instead of landfill or drain disposal.
Drug inventory reviews are designed to take stock of the types of drugs that are housed in the pharmacy and identify them as hazardous or potentially hazardous. The purpose is to have all staff and management be aware of the handling and disposal as set by the “best practices standard” for all regulated and non-regulated pharmaceuticals in the pharmacy.
Pharmaceutical waste – minimized: Placing focus on the non-hazardous waste that could be recycled or in the purchases of items made from recycled materials. These can often reduce costs while also reducing the chemical effects to the environment. Only certain items can be safely reused, but even these could contribute to improved minimization.
Assessment of existing practices will allow the pharmacy to update to any changes, estimate the waste volumes, and offer help in knowing which practices should be modified.
Communicating proper labeling may sound like it’s easy, but many staff may be confused with the various compliancy laws for each type of pharmaceutical waste. Establishing a clear and concise labeling process in the pharmacy will help to ensure that less time is taken trying to figure out any confusion.
Knowing the best management option for the pharmacy is dependant on size, resources, cost, and technologies available. There are a few models that can be available: automation through barcodes, electronic labeling systems, manual labeling systems, segregating pharmaceutical waste at the storage area, and placing all drug waste as hazardous waste.
Establishing strict guidelines for satellite accumulation: There are specific state guidelines for the location of the containers for each type of waste and most require that containers be placed as close as possible to the point of generation. The laws also dictate that the containers be FDA-approved for each waste stream type.
Staff training and education is a priority. State and federal guidelines require that all employees that will be involved with or near medical waste receive certified training prior to being hired and an annual training after that. Companies such as Healthcare Waste Management offer online training courses that comply with all state and federal guidelines.
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