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Tuesday, October 21, 2014 11:00 am

Proper Disposal of “Sharps”

Sharps is the medical term for syringes, needles or other devices that are used to pierce to cut the skin.
When insulin was made available to treat Diabetes, self injection and the use of syringes by patients became wide spread.
Sharps come in an assortment of designs and devices

Since then, advances in biological treatment of diseases like Rheumatoid Arthritis, Multiple Sclerosis, Hepatitis C, Oncology and others have created an increase in the use of syringes in the home and outside of the controlled health care setting.

In addition to injecting, sharps are used to draw blood for diagnosis of conditions. The common example that comes to the public’s mind are the lancets that are used for obtaining samples to use in diabetic blood monitors.
Once a sharps device has been used, it will eventually need to be removed from the home. How big is this issue?
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimates that 9 million Americans use needles or other sharps to manage their health or treatment. The FDA calculates this leads to more than 3 billion used needles and sharp that must be safely disposed of.
This enormous amount of sharps must be disposed of safely. These sharps pose a physical risk of puncture and the risk of disease transmission. Serious blood borne diseases from sharps include Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV.
Everyone handling sharps in any environment should use a sharp container at home, at work, or while traveling to properly dispose of needles to reduce the risk of punctured skin.
The sharps containers come in a variery of sizes and shapes. They are designed to handle many sizes and volumes of sharp waste generation.
You should be able to obtain sharps containers from you local pharmacy. If you use a Specialty Pharmacy, the general practice is to proactively provide the sharps containers.
The FDA has created a printable PDF document calling out the Dos and Don’ts of handling sharps. It is good information that should be shared by anyone providing sharps containers to patients.
Once safely placed in the container, the container must be disposed of in accordance with local guidelines. The sharps and the containers are considered a Biohazard and should no be place in the trash.
There are drop off locations and mail back options available for patients. The challenge, however, is the variety or regulations and practices surrounding the disposal of the sharps.
You should be able to get disposal guidance from the pharmacy that provided you with the sharps container. Remote specialty pharmacies, however, may not know your specific local regulations.
To provide clarity into the local disposal requirements, the Coalition for Safe Community Needle Disposal has stepped in to provide information.
The Coalition for Safe Community Needle Disposal is a collaboration of businesses, government and other organizations that promotes public awareness and solutions for sharps disposal. They have created an interactive map on their website to educate about disposal practices by state.
Practicing proper storage and disposal of sharp is key to ensure patients,  families and friends are kept safe.
As always, ask questions of your health care team. They are there to help.