Splitting pills

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: September 26th, 2006
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Pill prices are peculiar things. Buying a smaller dose could cost as much as a larger one. Say your doctor puts you on a cholesterol-lowering drug. Twenty milligrams of that drug may cost the same as forty milligrams.

The soaring price of medicine and this odd way of pricing have led patients to ask, “Why not cut the bigger pill in half and save?” A Stanford study estimates that pill splitting could help some patients save twenty-three to fifty percent a year.

Others advise caution. A recent Journal of the American Pharmacists Association article warned that improper splitting can lead to health problems, wrong dosing and ruined pills.

Researchers have found only about half the two-hundred-sixty-five most frequently prescribed drugs qualify for safe splitting. Dividing capsules, pills with shells or unusual shapes is a no-no. Also ruled out are prepackaged drugs such as birth control and one-dose pills. The Stanford study found six drugs for depression, two cholesterol-lowering drugs, two high blood pressure drugs, and Viagra suitable for splitting. A big clue is if a pill features a line down its center.

Pill splitting is easier with the proper tool. Using a knife may cause pieces to crumble or fly across the room. Instead, purchase a tablet cutter at the pharmacy and have the pharmacist demonstrate its use.

A word of warning: Don’t make changes to your medication without consulting your physician. When it comes to splitting pills and shaving costs, that’s the safest strategy.