New Hampshire Attorney General Joseph A. Foster and Commissioner Thomas S. Burack of the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES) announced that Merrimack County Superior Court has approved a settlement between the State and Omnicare Inc., doing business as Omnicare of New Hampshire, resolving allegations of hazardous waste violations.
Omnicare of New Hampshire, a community-based pharmacy at 13 Commerce Way and based out of Ohio, is a long-term care mail order pharmacy that primarily services group living facilities such as nursing homes, assisted living facilities and jails. It generates the majority of its hazardous waste through a product return program.
According to Assistant Attorney General Mary E. Maloney, the pharmacy was accused of improperly disposing of the pharmaceuticals Warfarin, Nitro Glycerin and Nicotine.
“Warfarin is used every day as a blood thinner, but in larger quantities it’s rat poison,” she said. “The State alleged that Omnicare failed to identify the pharmaceutical wastes as hazardous wastes. Omnicare then shipped the hazardous waste pharmaceuticals to facilities that were not authorized to accept the wastes.”
Maloney said that for several years Omnicare had treated the waste as medical waste, which includes blood, needles, etc., by sending it to a company in Rhode Island. Pharmaceuticals are to be treated differently.
“For several years before that we don’t know how they got rid of it,” Maloney said.
The pharmaceuticals in question were drugs that had been sent to patients and were returned under a buyback program.
“The pharmaceuticals were sent to the patients and what was not used was bought back in this program,” Maloney said. “They were in bubble packs and if the bubble packs were unopened, then they could be resold. The others that were bought back had to be disposed of properly under state law, and they were not.”
Maloney said the violations, as well as Omnicare’s failure to follow certain hazardous waste management requirements, were discovered during a DES inspection in October 2011. Omnicare corrected the problems once identified by DES and was cooperative throughout the investigation, she said.
“They are supposed to report to the state if they are storing hazardous waste or if you’re generating it so that we know you’re there and we can then do an inspection. For a number of years they were doing business there without reporting it,” she explained. “I’m not sure if they understood that they had to or not, but it’s pretty clear under state law that you have to report it.”
Maloney said Omnicare eventually reported the waste and self-corrected.
“But that does mean that for a number of years they didn’t do things correctly,” she said. “They’ve been in New Hampshire since 2003 and they have some records from I believe 2009 but they didn’t have records prior to that, so we don’t know how they disposed of them.”