Pharmacy Disposal of Waste

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Hazardous Waste at Pharmacy

The pharmaceutical business generates some waste that is considered to be hazardous. Some of this waste is in the form of drugs that are dangerous. Up until this point, a lot of the regulations surrounding the handling of these drugs has come from OSHA, and thus the regulations pertain to occupational safety, rather than environmental safety. OSHA has had recommendations for the safe handling of dangerous drugs for at least thirty years. Most hazardous drugs are cytotoxic, but some others are also potentially harmful, among them drugs for chemotherapy (Polovich, 2004).

Current Regulations

The current regulations at the federal level are from OSHA and are designed to protect the people who either produce or dispense pharmaceuticals that fall into the hazardous class (Connor & McDiarmmid, 2006). Chemotherapy agents, for example, have been linked to secondary leukemia and other cancers (Polovich, 2004). When OSHA brought in its guidelines, however, this also reduced the concern in the industry about the hazards that these drugs present. What few studies existed were conducted on environmental hazards from a workplace point-of-view, such as measuring the amount of cyclophosphamide found in pharmacies during testing (Polovich, 2004).

Studies on the environmental hazards presented by medical wastes tend to focus on things other than drugs, and are usually focused on developing nations where standards for disposal of such wastes in inchoate. In the developing world, issues identified included ordinary citizens gaining access to medical waste, including exposure to hazardous drugs, because of poor disposal practices. The risks, then, where not elaborated in the context of pharmacy workers nor in the context of the environment, only of people who happened to be in the environment (Patwary, O'Hare & Sarker, 2011).

EPA Rule

The EPA has proposed rules that will govern the disposal of hazardous pharmaceutical wastes, typically meaning chemotherapy drugs or powerful opioids. The rule will affect producers, pharmacies and reverse distributors, essentially any organization or person that is involved in the supply chain or reverse supply chain for these hazardous drugs. The rule is aimed at ensuring environmental safety, in particular with respect to water, by prohibiting agencies from flushing hazardous wastes down the toilet. According to the EPA, 6400 tons per year of such wastes are flushed through the sewer system (, 2015). The rule will affect both pharmacies and any health care provider that handles such drugs -- the disposal of hazardous drugs in this manner will effectively be prohibited according to the guidelines.

Pharmacies will be affected by the rule to the extent that they made a practice of disposing of hazardous drugs in this way. While many would…

Sources Used in Document:


Connor, T. & McDiarmid, M. (2006). Preventing occupational exposures to antineoplastic drugs in health care settings. CA: A cancer journal for clinicians. Vol. 56 (6) 345-365. (2015). Proposed rule: Management standards for hazardous waste pharmaceuticals. Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved April 8, 2016 from Patwary, M., O'Hare, W. & Sarker, M. (2011). Assessment of occupational and environmental safety associated with medical waste disposal in developing countries: A qualitative approach. Safety Science. Vol. 49 (8-9) 1200-1207.

Polovich, M. (2004). Safe handling of hazardous drugs. Online Journal of Issues in Nursing. Retrieved April 8, 2016 from

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