Six months after a final rule created by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is published in the Federal Register, health care facilities, including in-patient hospice, nursing, skilled nursing and inpatient hospital facilities will face a number of changes when it comes to managing pharmaceuticals considered to be hazardous waste.
The EPA’s rule now mandates that long-term care facilities be included in the requirements set out by the Resource Conservation Recovery Act (RCRA) regarding the generation, management, storage, treatment, and disposal of hazardous wastes, according to a brief written by Arnell Golden Gregory, LLP.
While the final rule does not increase the number of pharmaceuticals considered to be hazardous waste, it does include four changes that will impact LTC facilities:
1. Hazardous waste pharmaceuticals (HWP) that are to be sent off-site for reverse distribution will be regulated as hazardous wastes under the RCRA while still at the health care facility;
2. HWPs are banned from being disposed of down a drain or in a toilet, thereby reducing the amount of pharmaceutical ingredients that contaminate drinking water and endanger the environment;
3. It is easier to make a HWP container legally “empty;” and
4. Nicotine replacement therapies are no longer considered potential hazardous wastes. Some of the components of the final rule will relieve the existing burdens on generators of HWPs, while other components may make the management of HWPs more onerous, at least initially.