AVMA New Standards of Drug Disposal

Newsdate: Thu, 29 Dec 2011 - 12:28 pm
Location: WASHINGTON, D.C.

After the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) discovered drugs in the nation's waterways in 2008, the American Veterinary Medical Association began working with the EPA on new standards for disposal of drug waste that veterinarians or anyone else can use to help solve this problem.

These new rules are called the Best Management Practices for Pharmaceutical Disposal.

Practice Safe Disposal of Medications

Practice Safe Disposal of Medications

Follow federal and state guidelines for disposal of medications

Minimize unused pharmaceuticals: Maintain close inventory control to decrease expired/unused drugs.

− Write prescriptions for infrequently used drugs to prevent expirations.

− Consider assigning responsibility for inventory control and disposal to one or a limited number of staff members.

− Whenever possible, return drugs nearing expiration to the distributor.

Follow federal and state guidelines for disposal of controlled substances and hazardous waste.

Incineration typically provides the highest level of best management:

  • Contract with an appropriate commercial disposal company. Sharps and medical waste disposal companies may be able to provide this service, depending on state regulations. Local human hospitals may have information on incineration companies or services available in the area.
  • Use containers provided or recommended by the disposal company. The container should be leak-proof. Use of a leak-proof and tamper-resistant package will help prevent diversion. Add an absorbent substance such as kitty litter for liquids.
  • For partially used liquids in syringes, place the needle in a sharps container, evacuate unused liquid pharmaceuticals into a leakproof container containing an absorbent material such as kitty litter, and dispose of the syringe as appropriate medical waste.
  • For drugs in a labeled package, blacken all personal information, place a large X over the product label but maintain the product identification, and place in a tamper resistant and leak-proof container per incineration company guidelines.
  • Label the container “For Incineration Only” to help prevent diversion.
  • Maintain the pharmaceutical disposal container in a location away from client access, and consider storing fi lled containers in a locked storage area.

Consider landfilling if incineration is not feasible in the area:

  • For partially used liquids in syringes − Squirt the remaining liquid into a container of kitty litter or other absorbent substance. Dispose of the syringe and needle as appropriate medical waste. − Seal it and dispose of it in a leak-proof bag.
  • Blacken all personal information and place a large X over the product label but maintain product identification.
  • Segregate from other types of waste and keep sealed in a leak-proof container.
  • Use three layers of packaging to ensure the container does not leak.

Other important tips:

Controlled substances and hazardous wastes (including chemotherapeutic agents and epinephrine) are handled differently from non-hazardous waste, and must be disposed of in accordance with federal and state laws. The services of a commercial company may be needed to comply with those laws.

  • Never flush pharmaceuticals into the toilet or squirt down the sink.
  • Never burn pharmaceutical waste unless authorized by federal and state regulations in an approved incinerator.
  • Train all employees on proper disposal of hazardous and non-hazardous waste.
  • Be certain to check state and county laws and regulations for specific disposal requirements.

For questions or additional information please visit:


This "how-to" video teaches veterinarians—and really anyone—how to be a part of the solution to pharmaceutical waste. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nKp3phEtS2M

About the Author

Flossie Sellers

As an animal lover since childhood, Flossie was delighted when Mark, the CEO and developer of EquiMed asked her to join his team of contributors.

She enrolled in My Horse University at Michigan State and completed a number of courses in everything related to horse health, nutrition, diseases and conditions, medications, hoof and dental care, barn safety, and first aid.

Staying  up-to-date on the latest developments in horse care and equine health is now a habit, and she enjoys sharing a wealth of information with horse owners everywhere..