All surgery centers must comply with state and federal regulations governing the handling and disposal of regulated medical wastes (RMW), including discarded sharps and pharmaceutical waste. Even small waste generators like cosmetic surgery providers and oral surgery centers are covered. They must ensure that all staffers understand how to correctly identify, segregate, package, and store medical waste.

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A 2019 Government Accountability Agency (GAO) study of “Patient Options for Safe and Effective Disposal of Unused Opioids” noted that prescription size contributes to opioid misuse. “The majority of patients who received prescriptions for opioids often do not use a large portion of the drugs dispensed.”  Unused opioids in the home may be misused by others and present a poisoning danger to children and pets. Other studies have cited the danger of over-prescribing opioid painkillers to treat post-surgical pain and relatively minor illnesses and injuries, such as sprained ankles.

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The 2018 SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act included a provision directing the federal General Accounting Office (GAO) to review and report on ultimate-user options for safe and effective disposal of unused opioids. In 2019, the agency released its report to Congress. One section discussed why “federal agencies recommend take-back options as the preferred disposal method” for unused/unwanted opioids.

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