These guidelines provide advice on the implementation of safe disposal of unusable pharmaceuticals in emergencies and in countries in transition where official assistance and advice may not be available. They are not meant to supersede local, regional or national laws regarding disposal of drugs, but to provide assistance where there is insufficient guidance or none at all.
A number of methods for safe disposal of pharmaceuticals are described. These are methods which involve minimal risks to public health and the environment, and include those suitable for countries with limited resources and equipment. The adoption of the guidelines by ministries of health, environment and other relevant ministries, and their practical application, will contribute to the safe and economical elimination of stockpiles of unusable pharmaceuticals.
The best environmental option for pharmaceutical destruction is purpose-built high temperature incineration with adequate flue gas cleaning. However, this is not the only method that can be used to achieve adequate disposal. Indeed many countries do not possess such a facility. It is for this reason that these guidelines are suggested as practical interim alternatives to assist those charged with the safe disposal of unwanted pharmaceuticals. The current guidelines propose a number of marginally less safe treatments and disposal methods, which are however acceptable from the relative risk point of view, when balanced against the risks related to improper or non-disposal (see Section 1.8).