Healthcare facilities in Kansas, including hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, physician’s offices, and outpatient care centers, can take advantage of new state guidance designed to ease the burden of pharmaceutical waste disposal for a limited group of pharmaceutical products. On August 29, 2012, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) issued a guidance document entitled “Regulation of Pharmaceuticals from Non-Exempt Generators of Hazardous Waste” that exempts four classes of pharmaceuticals from hazardous waste regulations if the healthcare facility satisfies certain conditions.
Under EPA and KDHE regulations, discarded pharmaceutical products – including those products that are unused and undistributed – may be regulated as hazardous waste if the waste pharmaceuticals qualify either as a “listed” waste or if they exhibit a “characteristic” (i.e., ignitable, corrosive, reactive, or toxic). Not only are the products, themselves, potentially hazardous waste, but the residues in empty containers may also potentially trigger hazardous waste regulations (particularly P-listed residues, such as Coumadin), requiring cumbersome handling and treatment of empty containers that once held pharmaceutical products.
The new KDHE policy exempts from the definition of hazardous waste four specific pharmaceuticals:
- Used nicotine gum and patches;
- Epinephrine and syringes (including used epi-pens) with residual epinephrine;
- Nitroglycerine and containers with residual nitroglycerine; and
- Bubble packs and other containers previously holding pharmaceuticals on the P-list.
In order to satisfy the KDHE exemption, the healthcare facility must follow a series of prescriptive Best Management Practices (BMPs). By way of example, the pharmaceuticals and containers can only be disposed at a municipal solid waste landfill if classified as a “special waste,” and they may not be recycled unless it can be demonstrated and documented that the pharmaceuticals will not enter the environment as a result of the recycling.
KDHE’s actions follow that of other states, such as Michigan and Florida, which have created special exemptions or guidance for a limited set of waste pharmaceuticals. These state actions seek to streamline the disposal and management process while EPA lingers with a regulatory proposal, first proposed in 2008 and now due out in Spring 2013, to address the specific issues faced by healthcare facilities in pharmaceutical waste disposal.
Healthcare facilities, particularly those in Kansas, as well as companies that handle and manage disposal of pharmaceutical wastes (such as reverse distributors and waste management companies) may benefit from determining how best to take advantage of KDHE’s and other states’ new guidance, as well as determine whether current disposal practices of pharmaceutical products and packaging meets regulatory requirements.