Importance Of Removing Liquid Meds From Syringes

September 7, 2022 | Pharmaceutical Waste Disposal

The remaining liquid meds from syringes must be disposed of properly in healthcare settings. Learn how to minimize the risks and prevent drug misuse. 

Importance Of Removing Liquid Meds From Syringes

Did you know the leftover medicine in a syringe can be a drug divergence risk? Even small amounts of certain medications can be a source for illicit or improper use. In addition, needle prick injuries are a common consequence of unsafe syringe usage. One risk for healthcare professionals and others who handle these syringes is exposure to the medication left inside a syringe that hasn’t been disposed of properly. Every healthcare setting that administers syringe injections should have protocol in place for how to handle the leftover liquid injectables in a safe and secure way.

What Types Of Medicines Are Commonly Administered Via Syringe

The syringe is used to inject liquid medicine into the body. Healthcare providers have access to a variety of syringes:

Oral Syringes

A syringe is sometimes needed to administer oral medications. Using these syringes, you can precisely measure the dosage of oral liquid medication. An oral syringe requires a different tip design than an intravenous syringe. The different syringe tips reduce the likelihood of medication mishaps. For example, an IV line’s end cap cannot fit an oral syringe.

IV Syringes

Intravenous (IV) injections help inject drugs into a vein. This enables quick absorption into the body. There are multiple types of syringes and needles used for specific purposes. These include the following:

Subcutaneous Injections

Subcutaneous injections penetrate the fatty tissue beneath the skin and above the muscular tissue. Smaller needles are used for subcutaneous injections to ensure that the drug penetrates the fatty tissue rather than muscle.

Intramuscular Injections

Healthcare professionals use intramuscular injections to administer certain medications directly into a patient’s muscle tissue. Because of the high blood flow to the muscles, the body quickly absorbs the medicine.

Intraosseous Injections

This procedure uses a needle to pierce bone marrow and reach the veins. Your circulatory system is connected to the bone marrow’s abundant blood supply.

Intradermal injections

A bleb or wheal develops when a needle is inserted into the dermis underneath the skin surface. According to a handbook of clinical procedures released in 2015, intradermal injections have the most extended absorption period of all injections.

Leftover Liquids in Syringes Can Lead to Deadly Consequences

When establishing safety protocols for the handling of medical waste, sharps, and medication, it’s important to consider the entire lifecycle of these healthcare essentials. Although medications may be locked and require authorization to access them, unsecured sharps containers often allow access to medications that can be misused. This was the case with a Vancouver nurse’s assistant who self-injected a medication she discovered in a sharps waste container. She most likely thought it was an opioid. In fact, it was a neuromuscular blocking agent which led to her death. It was later discovered that this was not an isolated incident, but a practice the nurse had been surreptitiously doing for some time. This tragic incident serves as a reminder to all facilities that discarded sharps with leftover medication pose a serious threat.

What Are Other Common Concerns And Risks Of Leftover Medication In Syringes?

Human blood, bodily fluids, and other infectious materials can get into leftover liquid meds in used needles and syringes. The syringe dead space is the remaining fluid in the syringe after the plunger has been fully depressed. On average, the remaining volume is 3 percent of the total dose volume when using high-dead-space syringes, such as those with detachable needles.

This leftover medication should not be simply discarded down the drain. Many aquatic animals, such as frogs and fish, are affected by certain medications like hormones and antidepressants. When these medications are dumped down the drain, they can pollute lakes and streams, harming fish and other aquatic creatures and making their way into our drinking water. This is due to the inability of municipal wastewater treatment facilities to remove drugs from wastewater.

What Are The Most Dangerous Medications That Need To Be Removed From Syringes?

Any medicine classified as hazardous should be removed from syringes quickly after use.

Hazardous medications could endanger the health of healthcare professionals exposed to them during administration or preparation. Handle with extreme caution at all times because of the inherent toxicity risk these medications pose.

Most medications are cytotoxic, but others could also be detrimental (such as the antiviral agent gancyclovir). Toxic pharmaceuticals include chemotherapy drugs, antineoplastics, and any other medications that meet one or more criteria listed below.

  • Organ toxicity at low doses
  • Carcinogenicity
  • Reproductive toxicity
  • Teratogenicity or developmental toxicity
  • Genotoxicity
  • The similarity in structure or toxicity to medicine that meets the criteria mentioned above

Appendix A of the electronic document provided by the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) contains a list of medications that should be handled as dangerous.

Risk Management For Use Of Syringes

Before using a syringe, ensure you have performed a risk assessment, followed safe work instructions for the task/activity, and applied the necessary controls. Consider the following ideas during this process:

  • Make sure your staff knows and follows needle and syringe disposal processes
  • Use a denaturing kit to render leftover liquid medications inactive. Rx Destroyer™ All Purpose for example is used to denature all non-hazardous medications (DEA-controlled & Non-controlled) including pills, liquids, medication lollipops and suppositories. Rx Destroyer for Liquids is exclusively for use with medications (DEA-controlled & Non-controlled) in liquid form and syringe injectables. Liquid medications compatible with Rx Destroyer Liquid Formula are syrups, injectables, suspensions, solutions, and elixirs.
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) readily available for the staff
  • Keep a sharps container nearby to dispose of needles and syringes immediately
  • Use a sharps container that prevents overfilling
  • Ensure your sharps containers are properly secure and do not allow access for retrieval.
  • Secure drug denaturing units to the wall, using tamper-proof containers.

If your healthcare setting is looking for better ways to secure and dispose of leftover medication, reach out to the experts at Rx Destroyer. We work with businesses of all types to advise them on the safest, most secure solutions for their facilities and provide the products you need to help keep everyone in your community and business safe. Don’t let a simple oversight like a tiny bit of leftover pharmaceuticals be the weak link in your pharmaceutical safety strategy.