Whether it’s pill bottles, syringes, or medicine tablets, pharmaceutical waste at nursing homes can consist of sensitive or hazardous material. You need the right systems in place to segregate and manage it properly for the sake of safety and compliance. Read on to learn the consequences of improper pharma waste disposal at nursing homes and best practices for managing that waste.
Statistics show that nearly $2 billion a year in drugs are being wasted, including those in nursing homes. It’s reported that 2,300 tons of drugs are literally disposed down the drain annually, and 4,100 tons of drug waste end up in landfills. There’s also the fact that medication and hazardous waste is also improperly disposed of by being flushed down the toilet. This is resulting in more laws that are increasingly cracking down on pharmaceutical waste in nursing homes.
In December 2018, the EPA released a revision of the Resource Conservation Recovery Act. It states that since nursing homes are akin to hospitals, they need to follow the RCRA guidelines for managing and disposing of hazardous waste. One notable rule is that hazardous waste pharmaceuticals (HWPs) are banned from being disposed of down a drain or in a toilet, thereby reducing the amount of pharma ingredients that contaminate drinking water and endanger the environment. For violations, the offender can rack up as much as $37,000 per day per violation in EPA fines.
One example of improper pharmaceutical waste management happened in the New York City region. Two hospitals, two nursing homes, a residential care system, and a rehab center were fined for improper pharmaceutical waste management. These facilities were located within the New York City watershed, a 2000 square mile area that drains into reservoirs and lakes, providing drinking water to the nine million people who live in and around New York City. Officials found repeated incidents of flushing unused pharmaceuticals into the waterways, and the facilities were fined dollar amounts between $3,000 and $12,000. They were also required to set up proper methods for pharma waste disposal.
To avoid contamination, hefty fines, and lawsuits, nursing homes need the appropriate systems, practices, and policies for dealing with pharmaceutical waste disposal in place. A critical step is to follow RCRA regulations that direct segregating the waste by the following two categories: hazardous and non-hazardous. Hazardous pharmaceutical waste is divided into three, additional, main categories:
- RCRA listed pharmaceutical waste- These are waste products that contain, as the primary active ingredient, the substances that appear on RCRA’s acute or toxic waste lists. These are classified as the P or U lists.
- Bulk chemotherapy waste: This is waste that contains more than three percent of a P or U listed chemotherapy product. This includes materials to clean up spilled chemotherapy drugs, vials and/or syringes, and soft goods used in the administering of such medications with more than three percent residual.
- Controlled substances: These drugs are regulated by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) due to their potential for abuse or addiction. The DEA maintains that containers and such should be segregated and destroyed
Nonhazardous waste consists of drugs that do not fall under the EPA RCRA waste ID for characteristic, acute, or toxic listing; products OSHA deems nonhazardous in the work environment; and products that have been classified as non-carcinogenic by the US Department of Health.
To ensure you’re compliant with EPA regulations and handling pharmaceutical waste safely at your nursing home, consider partnering with a pharmaceutical waste management company. Companies of this type can handle waste segregation, pickup and transportation, disposal, and provide compliance solutions. You can rest assured your pharma waste is being disposed of smoothly, safely, and legally.
To ensure you’re compliant with EPA and handling pharmaceutical waste safely at your nursing home, consider partnering with a pharmaceutical waste management company. Companies of this type can handle waste segregation, pickup and transportation, disposal, and compliance solutions. You can rest assured your pharma waste is being disposed of smoothly, safely, and legally.