The Most Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Pharmaceutical Waste

Medical professionals have made healthcare their business, and often must handle and administer a variety of pharmaceuticals, but it’s rare that they’ll have been trained on the proper pharmaceutical waste management procedures. Such lack of training can lead to misconceptions, and such misconceptions can lead to workplace dangers and health hazards for both the medical professional and his patients.

For that reason, Curtis Bay Medical Waste Services has compiled the following list of frequently asked questions (and their answers) to aid in the understanding of pharmaceutical waste management and the associated challenges.

What is Hazardous or RCRA pharmaceutical waste?

A question that seems as though it should have a simple answer, determining what is and is not considered hazardous waste can be somewhat complicated. Hazardous pharmaceutical waste is governed by the strictest set of regulations under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). RCRA defines a hazardous waste as a waste that has the potential to cause or significantly contribute to an increase in mortality or an increase in serious reversible or incapacitating reversible illness; or a waste that poses a substantial hazard to human health or the environment when improperly treated, stored, transported, disposed of, or otherwise managed.

More specifically, RCRA categorizes hazardous waste into lists P, U, K, and F — only two of which (P and U) are relevant to pharmaceutical waste concerns; these include common drugs such as warfarin, nicotine, cyclophosphamide, and lindane.

But, and this is where the issue becomes complicated, there are certain pharmaceutical products with high levels of toxicity not considered hazardous, but should nonetheless be considered as such. These products can include any, and all chemotherapy agents; bulk powders; and certain vitamin or mineral preparations.

If unsure about the hazardous nature of any pharmaceutical waste in your medical office, contact Curtis Bay Medical Waste Services, where our subject matter experts are standing by to help.

Can I put pharmaceutical waste in my red bags?

Simply put: No. Red bags are not an approved disposal method for hazardous pharmaceutical waste; dispose only of biomedical, biohazardous, and infectious materials in red bags, and then contact Curtis Bay Medical Waste Services for tips on the proper disposal of your pharmaceutical waste.

Can I put pharmaceutical waste in my sharps containers?

Again, the answer is simply no.

What should I do with my pharmaceutical waste?

Just as you would put biohazard waste in red bags and sharps into puncture-resistant sharps containers, pharmaceutical waste must have its own container as well. Hazardous, non-DEA pharmaceutical waste goes in a black container, while non-hazardous, non-DEA pharmaceutical waste goes in a blue container. Ensure the hazardous pharmaceutical waste is kept segregated from other waste streams, and leave the job to us. Curtis Bay Medical Waste Services provides the safe handling and complete destruction of pharmaceutical waste in accordance with government regulations.

Learn more about Curtis Bay's Pharmaceutical Waste Solutions.