Pharmaceutical waste


Pharmaceutical waste can be classified as either regulated medical wastesolid waste, or hazardous waste, depending on regulations of a hospital’s state and locality. Regardless of the waste stream, our member hospitals have identified safe and responsible pharmaceutical waste disposal as a pressing challenge for several reasons: 

  • Flushing and dumping, once common go-tos for disposal, are no longer best practice now that more and more evidence shows these discarded medications end up in groundwater. 
  • More stringent regulations for controlled substances require additional attention to how hospitals dispose of medications that are commonly abused. 

Practice Greenhealth members who have successfully reduced their pharmaceutical waste output and streamlined responsible disposal have done so by forming a pharmaceutical management team and then conducting structured formulary reviews to identify:

  • Hazardous drugs per federal regulations
  • Medications not classified “hazardous” but that require special management to protect health and the environment, such as: 
    • Antidepressants
    • Statins
    • Hormone replacement therapy
    • Antibiotics

Practice Greenhealth offers resources and case studies to help our members assess the best ways to reduce all types of pharmaceutical waste, in terms of both costs and responsible disposal, to prevent drugs from ending up in our sewers, and ultimately, in our water supply. 

We also connect our members with national and state experts, as well as peer institutions, so we can all work together to design, implement, and measure the success of efforts to manage pharmaceutical waste.  

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