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Pharmaceutical waste program for 550-bed hospital is first of its kind in Buffalo

BUFFALO, NY & LAKE FOREST, Ill. - June 11, 2010 - Erie County Medical Center (ECMC) Corporation announced its commitment to minimizing environmental impact and making good decisions for the benefit of community health and safety by being the first hospital in Buffalo to implement the Pharmaceutical Waste Compliance program and also one of the first to install the Sharps Management System using Bio Systems reusable containers by Stericycle Inc. (NASDAQ: SRCL). 

Hospitals like ECMC are serious about examining the ways pharmaceutical waste is being disposed. Using these services ECMC is ahead of the  curve with green initiatives as several states begin to legislate "no flush" laws, while leading the trend toward reusable sharps container systems in the healthcare environment.

Hospitals are becoming increasingly aware of their role within and responsibilities toward the environment.  A study by the University of Chicago Hospitals and published in JAMA1 found that the American healthcare sector accounts for 8% of the U.S. carbon footprint. The analysis found that hospitals are by far the largest contributor of carbon emissions in the healthcare sector. The need to address both air and water quality issues is imperative as the number of drugs in the marketplace keeps growing as do carbon emissions if steps like these are not taken by healthcare administrators.

Between 1993 and 2009, more than 1,500 drugs were approved by the FDA.  The 1999-2000 U.S. Geological Survey found 80% of streams sampled had at least one waste contaminant1. Waste contaminants included pharmaceutical drugs such as endocrine disrupters and antibiotics. In a similar study in 2008, an Associated Press survey reported a detection of pharmaceuticals in drinking water that serves 41 million Americans.  

Hospitals, which are major users of pharmaceuticals, are seeking assistance to effectively manage pharmaceutical waste.  The process can be complex. Pharmaceutical waste must be characterized, segregated, and transported. The disposal must also be documented.

Many states are passing legislation. In Illinois beginning January, 2010 the Safe Pharmaceutical Disposal Act began prohibiting the disposal of unused medication into a public wastewater collection system or septic system. Knowing legislation is likely to increase, ECMC is ahead of the compliance curve by using Stericycle's Pharmaceutical Waste Compliance Service.

"Each year, more regulations, especially at the state level, are enacted to require appropriate segregation, transportation and treatment of all healthcare waste. We want to be more than compliant. We want to keep staff, patients and the community safe," says Randy Gerwitz, R.Ph., director of pharmacy.

As hospitals continue to explore best environmental practices, "green teams" seek ways to improve additional facility and health systems' practices.  Few tools exist that specifically help determine a hospital's environmental impact.

A tool called the Carbon Footprint Estimator2 is designed to help U.S. hospitals determine the amount of plastic and cardboard containers, and resulting CO2 emissions that they would keep out of the environment by switching the facility's use of disposable sharps containers to reusable containers. Each reusable container saves the equivalent of 600 from later going to landfills. 

Since 1986, the Stericycle Sharps Management System using Bio Systems reusable containers has kept almost 80 million sharps containers out of landfills.  Using this system, ECMC has seen 71,000 pounds of carbon emissions prevented from 121,000 pounds of plastic and 6,000 pounds of cardboard diverted from landfills in the past year. This amount is the equivalent of 3,651 gallons of gasoline₃.  

According to Juan Santiago, assistant vice president of support and hospital services, ECMC, "By switching to Stericycle's Sharps Management System using Bio Systems reusable containers, ECMC has been able to realize significant efficiencies while leading our region within the healthcare industry in environment-friendly initiatives."    

About Stericycle: Lake Forest, IL-based Stericycle (NASDAQ: SRCL) is a leader in healthcare-related services that protect people and reduce risk. With more than 430,000 customers worldwide, Stericycle has operations in North America, Europe, and Latin America. Visit http://www.stericycle.com/.

NEWS CONTACT: Joe Cirillo at 716-898-4300 or jcirillo@ecmc.edu


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