Pharmaceutical Waste Feb 9, 2024

Disposal of Out of Date Medicine

Disposal of Out of Date Medicine

Posted on July 11th, 2017

As individuals not enough of us know how to dispose of out of date medicine properly! Lloyds pharmacy conducted a survey of their customers which showed that one third clear out our medicine cabinet less than once a year, 7% confessing to never doing this!

So how do home owners dispose of out of date medicine?

Well looking at a thread it would seem that many simply throw medicines down the drains:

“I must admit I have always crushed mine up and washed them down the sink. Is that wrong?”

Another answered the question with:

“I flush mine down the toilet lol. Could block the sink and if you bin them the kids could raid the bin and think they were sweets so toilets the safest to me”

I wonder how righteous these commentors would be if they heard of a large business flushing chemicals “down the toilet”. Though to be fair there were a number of more encouraging responses in reply to the above offering the advice to return any out of date medicine to their pharmacy.

How does large business dispose of out of date medicine and other pharmaceutical waste?

In today’s regulation led environment, large businesses and research facilities will have rigorous processes in place to ensure that they comply with the current legislation. For waste management practices to comply, they must operate within 3 pillars of regulation:

  • Infection control and health & safety legislation
  • Environment and waste legislation
  • Transport legislation

Operating within this legislative framework creates an environment where effective procurement of goods and services supports compliant healthcare waste management.

So these are the two extremes. There is an environment where people don’t always understand their responsibilities on the disposal of medicines, to a heavily regulated industry where the responsibilities are clearly defined and understood.

So what if a business finds itself unexpectedly in the possession of pharmaceutical waste?

Well, firstly what do we mean by pharmaceutical waste? They can be classified into the following groups:

  • Out of date pharmaceuticals
  • Prescription medication
  • Over the counter medication
  • Controlled drugs destruction kits
  • Cytotoxic and cytostatic waste
  • Recalled pharmaceutical stock

How does a business find itself in this position? Well, the types of companies I am thinking of could be distributors, wholesalers or simply a commercial property owner taking over a property at the end of a tenancy; administration errors, bankruptcy or stock being left/lost can result in these types of businesses needing to safely remove and destroy medicines.

At Novus Environmental we get a surprising amount of requests from these types of businesses needing to have pharmaceutical waste collected and treated on an ad-hoc basis.

What other considerations are there when it comes to pharmaceutical waste?

It is important for companies to adhere to strict regulations when disposing of medicines and pharmaceutical waste. But it may not always be easy to identify what medicines are; especially when labels have become worn or illegible. In this instance, it is in the public interest that the pharmaceutical waste is treated as hazardous waste. The company in possession of the waste will need to commission the services of a waste management company to remove and treat the waste and thereby ensuring public safety is protected.

So whilst many homeowners don’t know the importance of the correct disposal methods for pharmaceutical waste, small and medium businesses must ensure that they are using a waste management company with the correct capabilities to ensure public safety and to protect their brand’s reputation.

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