Pharmaceuticals is more than a trillion-dollar industry, and it has experienced growth that outpaces many others. That growth means that pharmaceutical waste is also on the rise.
What Is Pharmaceutical Waste?
Pharmaceutical waste is any pharmaceutical material that the medical facility no longer requires. Usually, pharmaceutical waste includes things like expired samples and expired medications.
Should this waste be improperly classified or disposed of, there are numerous consequences for both public safety and the offending business. For one thing, the medical products may contaminate public water. For another, when regulatory authorities discover the issue on their own or if it is reported to them, the business will face fines and potentially large-scale negative publicity.
Types of Pharmaceutical Waste
It can be controlled, hazardous, or nonhazardous, and there are further categories within each of these. Complying with all relevant laws is essential in the waste disposal process.
Controlled Pharmaceutical Waste
Substances like opiates are controlled substances and must be separated from the rest of the pharmaceutical waste. These substances must follow US DEA regulations, which usually requires the business to return them to the manufacturer or have them destroyed by a licensed contractor. For a full list of controlled substances, consult the Drug Enforcement Administration’s list.
Nonhazardous Pharmaceutical Waste
“Nonhazardous” does not mean that the waste is not harmful; it still poses risks to the environment, but it is not regulated by the RCRA. Most pharmaceutical waste is nonhazardous, and it includes things such as:
- OTC medications
Hazardous Pharmaceutical Waste
Hazardous pharmaceutical disposal is governed by RCRA laws. Waste of this variety must be placed in black containers and disposed of following specific regulations. Chemotherapy waste is hazardous, but it is treated as hazardous chemical waste and is not mixed in with other kinds of hazardous pharmaceutical waste.
The disposal process for pharmaceutical waste is fairly straightforward. Companies must separate the waste into the categories above, package it for transportation, and contract with a waste management company that will dispose of the waste.
The most important thing to remember with pharmaceutical waste is that is cannot just be poured down the drain or dumped in the trash. Furthermore, it cannot be incorrectly classified (e.g. placing expired drugs in red bag [biohazardous] waste), as this can lead to public and environmental issues in addition to regulation conflicts.
A certified waste management company will be able to determine what waste you have, sort it appropriately, and dispose of it. Keep your business regulation compliant by contacting Clean Management.