All Points Medical Waste Blog

All Pharmaceutical Waste Is Not Created Equal

Know the differences & be sure you’re following safe and proper disposal requirements

Although it may seem simple enough, disposing of pharmaceuticals is not so cut and dry and understanding and following the right procedures is imperative to remaining compliant as well as protecting the environment and the community. Read on for the different types of pharmaceutical waste and disposal protocols for each:

Types of Pharmaceutical Waste

Non-controlled & Non Hazardous Pharmaceutical Waste

Pharmaceuticals that are classified as non-controlled and non-hazardous can deceive folks into thinking they’re not dangerous. But the fact is, these medicines that are prescribed to treat conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, bacterial infections and others can be dangerous, even deadly if taken by someone other than who they were prescribed for. They can also contaminate the water and landfills, endangering thousands of people.

Proper disposal: Regulations of non-controlled pharmaceuticals disposal vary from state to state so it’s important to check with your local authorities. Safe and reliable options include bringing unused medications to an authorized collection site, including a pharmacy, a local clinic or hospital or having them picked up by a medical waste disposal company.

Controlled pharmaceutical waste

Controlled pharmaceuticals fall into several categories and are classified by their use, their propensity to cause physical and emotional dependence and have restrictions on how they can be used. And while illegal drugs are considered controlled substances (like heroin, ecstasy and cocaine), many prescription medications are also in this category, like various cough syrups, pain medications and drugs prescribed for anxiety and depression.

Proper disposal: Because controlled pharmaceuticals can be dangerous and possibly deadly, the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) has very specific rules on how to dispose of them. Depending on your state regulations, some methods include using a DEA compliant container, a mail-back envelope, delivering the waste to an authorized collection site or working with a specialized medical waste provider to ensure safe disposal.

Hazardous pharmaceutical waste

Some pharmaceuticals fall into the hazardous waste category because of the possibility that they could cause serious and irreversible illness, death or pose a threat to human health or the environment when disposed of or stored improperly. Whether you’re a clinic, medical practice, assisted living facility, an individual or other organization that uses these types of substances, it’s crucial that you make yourself aware of the regulations relating to these substances.

Proper disposal: When it comes to hazardous pharmaceutical waste, the ideal solution is to work with a medical waste provider who specializes in transporting and disposing of these types of materials.

Over-the-counter pharmaceutical waste

Headache, allergy and cold medicines that don’t require a prescription can be dangerous if they are misused, especially by children. They can also contaminate our water or the environment if they’re poured down the sink or thrown into a trash can. So although these types of pharmaceuticals may not seem like an imminent threat, they still require proper disposal.

Proper disposal: If mail-back is not offered, the best way to dispose of unused over-the-counter medications is to first dilute them (if it’s a liquid), crush them up (if they are pills) and mix in a substance like gravel, coffee grounds or dirt and them place them in a sealed container or bag before putting them into your trash can.

Understanding the different types of pharmaceutical waste and how best to dispose of it can be key to your organization’s success—as well as avoiding costly fines for non-compliance.

For all your medical waste needs, turn to us at All Points Medical Waste. We are the trusted provider for many medical facilities, dental offices, clinics and private medical practices throughout South Florida. To find out about our services, give us a call at 772-600-4885 or fill out our online quote request.

Dawn Connelly

Dawn is the vice president of All Points Medical Waste. All Points Medical Waste is a family-owned and operated medical waste disposal and compliance company that has been serving the Treasure Coast, Palm Beaches, and surrounding areas since 1994.
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