Q&A: How Sharps Compliance helps dispose of regulated medical waste

With the number of vaccinations being administered by pharmacies, they tend to create a lot of medical waste, whose disposal comes with strict regulations. Sharps Compliance looks to partner with organizations generating medical waste to assist with disposal, training and other services that make handling and disposing of medical waste straightforward for its clients.

Drug Store News spoke with Kathryn Kane-Neilson, clinical specialist in regulatory compliance at Sharps Compliance, about the company’s capabilities and offerings.

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Kathryn Kane-Neilson, clinical specialist in regulatory compliance, Sharps Compliance

Drug Store News: Tell us a bit about Sharps Compliance and the services it offers.
Kathryn Kane-Neilson:
Sharps is a full-service national provider of comprehensive regulated waste management services, including medical, pharmaceutical and hazardous wastes. We also offer online tracking with proof of treatment, OSHA training, waste minimization support, easy program management options and a team of dedicated experts challenged daily to exceed customers’ expectations.

DSN: How can healthcare waste compliance and disposal services benefit retailers
with pharmacies?
As generators of regulated medical waste, retail pharmacies are subject to the same regulations concerning regulated medical waste as any other regulated medical waste generator. When retail pharmacies are aware of their regulatory duties concerning regulated medical waste at both the state and federal levels, they decrease the likelihood of attracting unwanted attention from those regulatory bodies. Nearly all of the requirements for compliant regulated medical waste management are designed to improve environmental health within the setting generating the waste and, therefore, reduce potential associated exposure risks to staff and customers.

This point is particularly relevant with one of the main types of regulated medical waste, sharps waste. Staff trained on safe sharps disposal and facilities that contract for a sufficient supply of sharps containers will be better poised to cope with fluctuations in immunization waste generation and prevent accidental needlestick injuries.

The unprecedented volumes of other forms of regulated medical waste resulting from COVID-19 testing have also increased the onus of responsibility for compliant management of these potentially infectious wastes on healthcare providers like retail pharmacies.

DSN: What are some of the benefits of partnering with your company?
By partnering with the leading sharps mailback solutions provider for pharmacies administering immunization programs, our customers benefit from a cost-
effective, as-needed option that allows for scale as demand increases. Additionally, our Regulatory Compliance Team offers guidance to ensure programs are managed in strict compliance with applicable regulations.

DSN: How has the pandemic affected pharmacies’ disposal needs?
Because retail pharmacies were designated as strategic providers of COVID-19 vaccinations by the White House, management of unprecedented volumes of sharps and PPE presented new challenges. Luckily, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidance on COVID-19-related infection control, COVID-19 testing and treatment wastes according to the challenges of the nation’s major healthcare industries, including pharmacies.

While most of the CDC’s guidance did not differentiate management of COVID-19 waste from waste contaminated with other Category B infectious organisms, many states issued stricter requirements for this waste. Namely, waste items not otherwise contaminated to the same level as delineated within OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens Standard were qualified as regulated wastes that could not be placed in municipal trash. Vast amounts of PPE were collected as regulated medical waste as a result, and pharmacies that were not accustomed to acquiring and maintaining larger receptacles for the containment of this regulated medical waste were quickly learning about proper packaging, labeling, etc.

DSN: Can you talk a bit about your medication disposal kiosk offering?
The MedSafe medication disposal kiosk provides pharmacy customers with a convenient place to bring their unused or expired medications, including controlled substances, for safe collection and disposal. Drugs are destroyed using incineration to meet the DEA’s non-retrievable standard.

With over 6,000 kiosks in the market, MedSafe has removed over 3 million lbs. of medicine from communities.