Disposal of medicines

Unwanted, used and expired prescription medicines must be disposed in an environmentally responsible way and so there is no risk to the public of being reused or diverted. There are obligations for health practitioners and Permit holders for disposal of medicines under Medicines and Poisons Legislation.

Environmental considerations

Medicines can take many years to degrade and persist for a long time in the environment. Many medicines are now detectable at low levels in the environment.

To prevent unnecessary environmental contamination, medicines should not be treated as general waste. They are not suitable for landfill and should not be poured down the sink, flushed down the toilet or otherwise permitted to enter the water table.

The only currently safe and accepted method of disposal of pharmaceutical waste is through high temperature incineration. This type of incineration is specialised and must be carried out by an approved waste management contractor.

Consumers

Consumers with unwanted medicines should be encouraged to return these to their closest community pharmacy for disposal via the Return Unwanted Medicines (RUM) Program (external link).

Health practitioners and permit holders

Authorised persons should use a waste disposal method for Schedule 8 medicines that is secure and environmentally sound. Medicines may be treated as clinical waste and disposed of this way where this is consistent with best security and environmental practices.

Schedule 8 medicines

Schedule 8 medicines can only be destroyed when they are no longer suitable for patient use, such as being expired, contaminated, damaged or otherwise unfit for human or animal use. They must be destroyed and disposed of under the personal supervision of an authorised person.

Destruction

Persons authorised to destroy Schedule 8 medicines include those health practitioners ordinarily permitted to obtain, possess or supply a S8, such as medical practitioners, pharmacists, registered nurses, etc.

Witnesses

Destruction of a Schedule 8 must also be independently witnessed by another approved person.

Each time a Schedule 8 is destroyed this action must be recorded in the approved transaction Register, including the date, item and quantity destroyed and reason for destruction.

Final Disposal

To physically dispose of a Schedule 8 medicine they should be first be made unidentifiable by removing all labelling and packaging, and then made physically or chemically unusable by breaking ampoules, emptying liquid contents, crushing tablets and using a disposal kit.

Disposal kits

Purpose made controlled drug disposal kits suspend the Schedule 8 medicine in a gel preventing retrieval. They are strongly recommended to maintain security and those with a chemical neutralising agent included are preferred.

Secure transfer

While awaiting final disposal Schedule 8 medicines must continue to be held securely to prevent theft or diversion. Storage in an approved drug safe should continue, until immediately before final transfer to the place of incineration.

Schedule 8 recommendations

For more detailed recommendations on individual settings please see the following table.

 

  Small quantity Moderate quantity
Large quantity
Table 1: Recommended disposal of Schedule 8 medicines
Example 1-2 ampoules or several tablets multiple packets of ampoules, tablets or bottles of liquid many packets of ampoules, tablets or bottles of liquid
Likely setting medical practice, veterinary practice, dentist community pharmacy hospital, wholesaler
Type of medicines
expired stock medicines returned by patients, expired and damaged stocks expired and damaged stocks, patient's admission medicines
Suggested approach remove all packaging.  Crush and disperse contents.  Dispose of as clinical waste (in sharps or clinical waste container) for incineration. Remove packaging and identifying materials.  Make product unusable. Disperse contents in disposal kit (as per directions).  Pharmacies: dispose of kits into RUM containers. Send RUM bins for incineration. At ward level: use method for small quantities.  Larger quantities: return stock to hospital pharmacy. Very large quantities: supervised transport to waste management contractor. 

Wholesale and industrial users

For disposal of very large or commercial quantities of Schedule 8 medicines please contact the Medicines and Poisons Regulation Branch for further advice.

More information

Medicines and Poisons Regulation Branch
Mailing address: PO Box 8172, Perth Business Centre, WA 6849
Phone: 9222 6883
Email: poisons@health.wa.gov.au