Management of Pharmaceuticals at Healthcare Facilities

Medicines improve our quality of life, but there are some important issues regarding the proper disposal of unneeded or unwanted medicines. The disposal of pharmaceuticals when no longer needed poses a threat to our environment. Sharps Compliance has developed a program to manage these unwanted pharmaceuticals safely and in compliance with all federal, state, and local laws and regulations.

One of the ramifications of mismanagement of unused medications is the environmental effects resulting from poor pharmaceutical disposal practices. Through the years, pharmaceuticals have been largely discarded through either flushing or “sinking” them into the wastewater stream or discarding them into the solid waste stream. In the first instance, the wastewater is treated to remove physical, chemical, and biological contaminants, such as sediment, bacteria, and viruses. However, this treatment does not remove all organic molecules, which are inherent in pharmaceuticals. Thus, many of these molecules remain entrained in the treated waste water which is discharged into reservoirs, rivers, or lakes. Likewise, drugs disposed of as solid waste (into landfills) may leach these organic molecules into aquifers and into the fresh water supply.

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Hazardous Wastes at Retail Pharmacies

There has been increased scrutiny of the generation of hazardous waste in the retail industry – especially in the pharmacy area of stores. The importance of correctly managing the disposal of pharmaceuticals has become a critical issue. There is a category of waste that describes chemicals and constituents that are harmful to the environment – and these materials are classified as hazardous wastes under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). A number of drugs and pharmaceutical formulations meet the definition of hazardous waste when discarded – and in some cases the empty containers that these pharmaceuticals came in may also need to be managed as hazardous waste.

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Hazardous Waste Defined

What exactly does the word hazardous mean? It is used quite often in the regulatory world as a descriptor of another significant word. The word “hazardous” is an adjective, meaning full of risk; perilous; risky.

If you live in the Northern US, I am sure that you know what hazardous driving conditions signify. If you are a golfer, I am positive that you recognize the word “hazards” when on the course. So, you can easily see what using the term hazard or hazardous connotes.

We need to make certain that the regulatory definitions using the key word hazardous are understood – and that we use the terms correctly. Let’s look at the use of the word hazardous in the regulations.

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Hazardous Waste in Healthcare, Part 2: MANAGING YOUR HAZARDOUS WASTE

In Part 1 of Hazardous Waste in Healthcare, we defined hazardous wastes. In Part 2, we will discuss identifying hazardous waste in your facility, as well as proper containment, transport, treatment, recordkeeping, and training.

Hazardous Waste Determination

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Hazardous Waste in Healthcare, Part 1: DEFINING HAZARDOUS WASTE

One of the biggest challenges for today’s healthcare workers is defining the different categories of waste streams they manage on a daily basis. Even the names can be confusing. There’s hazardous, biohazardous, RCRA, universal, pharmaceutical, regulated medical, red bag, pathological, chemo, infectious, isolation, and the list goes on. Perhaps the most confusing and dangerous wastes facilities deal with is hazardous waste. Hazardous waste in healthcare is much more complicated than biohazardous waste and more often than not, improperly recognized and categorized by healthcare professionals. So, what is hazardous waste?
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