Safely Disposing of a Dangerous Drug
Despite increased attention surrounding controlled substance waste disposal, propofol is one potential drug that may be slipping through the cracks.
What Is Propofol?
Propofol (also known as Diprivan) is a sedative primarily used in the operating room to relax and sedate patients before surgical procedures and to supplement general anesthetics.
Although propofol has addictive properties and is associated with potentially life-threating side effects, it is not included on the Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA) list of controlled substances, meaning all licensed physicians can access the drug without being a DEA registrant.
What Are the Risks Associated with Propofol?
To sustain a safe clinical environment for patients and staff alike, it’s important that organizations are aware of the hazards and risks associated with propofol:
- The instances of propofol addiction are increasing—rising five-fold over the last ten years.
- Health care workers are more prone to becoming addicted because of their easy access to the medication.
- One in five academic anesthesiology training programs reported at least one case of abuse by physicians or other health care workers in the past decade.
- Though it is the most commonly wasted pharmaceutical in the operating room by volume, many hospitals do not have a secure process or container for its disposal as they would for controlled substances.
Treating Propofol as a Controlled Substance
Although propofol is not currently regulated by the DEA, it was recommended to be added as a schedule IV drug in 2010. To minimize the risks associated with the drug, organizations should consider treating it as a controlled substance at their facility.
Certain states are starting to require this, including Alabama, Georgia and North Dakota. By taking this approach, you can safeguard patients and staff, reduce the risk of diversion and prevent inadvertent leaching into the surrounding environment.
Team Up with a Knowledgeable Partner
To ensure a sound methodology for safe propofol disposal, it can be helpful to work with an experienced medical waste management partner to establish a consistent process. At Stericycle, we have experts on staff that can recommend the best disposal approach for your organization, suggest the right waste containers and provide training to take your organization’s drug disposal program to the next level.