One of the biggest benefits hazardous waste management companies can offer pharmacies is their expertise on expired medication disposal. Because it is so common for various medications to expire in a pharmacy and require proper disposal, every pharmacy should be fully up to date on the protocol for proper medication disposal (and the consequences for failing to follow that protocol).

How to Dispose of Expired Medication: What Pharmacies Need to Know

Why Your Pharmacy Should Care about Proper Expired Medication Disposal

All the legal regulations and rules regarding how to dispose of expired medication were put in place in order to keep these medications out of our water systems and out of the wrong hands.

For one, proper medication disposal does help limit the amount of expired medicine that can find its way to people looking to abuse it.

However, it is also about keeping the environment safe. Not everybody realizes that some expired medications actually qualify as hazardous waste, and there are, therefore, a number of steps that must be followed for that waste to be disposed of properly.

While this practice is far less common now, some pharmacies still do dump their expired medication in the trash or down the drain, which introduces extremely dangerous elements into the environment and puts your pharmacy at risk of fines and other consequences for not following the law as it relates to proper pharmaceutical disposal.

What Medication Must Be Properly Disposed Of?

Any medication has a shelf life (a period of time where that medication can still be given to patients for treatment). After that shelf life has passed, it is expired and must be properly disposed of.

For pharmacies, that typically means one of two things happens.

Reverse Distribution and Your Pharmaceutical Waste

If you have unused, unopened medication that has simply expired, you might be able to send that to a reverse distributor.

A reverse distributor will get that medication back to the manufacturer for credit, and you (as the pharmacy) might or might not receive payment from the reverse distributor for that transaction.

Reverse distribution is only an option if that medication is considered "reusable," meaning it hasn't been opened, used, or contaminated.

Disposal through a Waste Management Company

If you can't utilize reverse distribution for your expired pharmaceuticals, you will have to enlist the help of a reputable waste management company.

They can provide the pharmaceutical waste containers you need to properly segregate your pharmaceutical waste, and, if they are reputable, they will possess the necessary permits and insurance to then pick up and transport that hazardous waste.

What Benefits Do Waste Management Companies Offer Pharmacies?

One of the biggest benefits to working with these full-service companies is the education factor. If you're confused about a certain area of pharmaceutical waste disposal, your company can walk you through exactly what you need to do and what you need to know.

They can even end up saving you a lot of headache, hassle, time, and money.

Avoiding the Large Quantity Generator Status

If your pharmacy has more than 2.2 pounds of acutely hazardous waste on site at any given time, your pharmacy officially becomes a "large quantity generator." When that is the case, your taxes are higher, and the amount of annual reporting you must do to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) skyrockets.

Also, if you generate more than 2,200 pounds per month of U-listed waste, D-listed waste, and nonhazardous waste, you get bumped to a large quantity generator.

Working with a waste management company can not only alert you to the existence of these limits (and the consequences they can have for you pharmacy), but they can also help you segregate your waste in such a way that you don't needlessly get bumped into that status.

For example, many waste management companies will provide separate pails for P-listed waste (anything acutely hazardous, such as Warfarin) and U-listed and D-listed waste. This segregation ensures you don't unnecessarily go over that very limited 2.2 pounds allowed of acutely hazardous materials.

Providing the Proper Paperwork for Hazardous Waste Removal

A reputable company will give you all the paperwork related to your hazardous waste—from the initial stages through to treatment and disposal.

This includes:

  • Yellow hazardous waste labels for your pails.
  • Paperwork regarding how you're generating your waste.
  • Paperwork regarding where that waste came from.
  • Paperwork that details everything you shipped that year.

A waste management company can also help you make sense of your pharmaceutical formulary, which will detail all the drugs you have on site and what waste code each carries. This medical formulary will help you accurately determine what gets segregated into what category, and if you ever need assistance with that, your company should be happy to help.

For more information about how to dispose of expired medication legally and safely, please feel free to contact a representative of MCF Environmental Services, a waste management Atlanta business.