Friday, October 10, 2008


Splitting pills can be safe and save you money

Looking for a way to save money on the cost of your medications? Pill splitting may be one option for you that is often overlooked.

Pill splitting is the practice of breaking a double-strength tablet in half and taking just a half piece. For example, if you are prescribed to take 20mg of simvastatin every day, you could split a 40mg strength tablet in half and take just a half-tablet each day (each half would be 20mg).

If you ask around, you may find some who frown upon this practice, but they are usually the ones selling the medications. Here are some frequently asked questions about pill splitting:

Why would someone split pills?
Many medications are available in a variety of tablet strengths. Often the cost difference between the different strengths is very small. By splitting tablets in half, people save money on the cost of their medications.

In the example above, if the 20mg tablets cost $1 each, and the 40mg tablets cost $1.25 each, then a 30-day supply of 20 mg tablets will cost $30. However, for a 30-day supply using a 40mg tablet, only 15 tablets are needed at a cost of $18.75.

Is pill splitting safe?
When done properly, splitting pills and taking the prescribed amount is clinically the same as taking a whole pill at the same dosage. The slight difference that occurs from pills not being perfectly split down the middle is inconsequential.

What medications can and can not be split?
There are many pills that should never be split. In general, any sustained or controlled release medication, or medications with specially coated tablets can cause significant harm if split. Some people believe that any pill that has a line down the middle can be safely split, but that is not true.

There is no easy way to determine which medications can be safely split and which can’t other than asking an expert. Before splitting any medications, speak to your pharmacist about whether or not it is safe to do so.

Who should not split pills?
If you have vision problems or difficulty handling your pills due to arthritis or another medical issue, you should not attempt to split pills. If you have questions concerning your ability to split pills, you should discuss this issue with your doctor. Another option would be to ask a capable family member to do it for you.

How can I split pills safely?
Pills should only be split by using a “pill-splitter”. They are small and inexpensive devices available at any pharmacy and are designed specifically to safely and evenly split pills. Using a knife or razor is an inaccurate and unsafe practice; pill pieces will shoot across the room and you might split your fingers as well.

What should I do if I want to start pill splitting?
If you are considering pill splitting, you should first discuss it with your pharmacist. They can inform you if your medications can be safely split and if it could save you money. The second step is to discuss this issue with your physician. If both you and your doctor are in agreement to begin tablet splitting, then your doctor needs to give you a new prescription to obtain the double-dose tablets with the instructions to “take one-half tablet.”

Michael Smith is a pharmacist and Clinical Coordinator in the Department of Pharmacy Services at The William W. Backus Hospital. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your personal physician. If you want to comment on this column or other health topics, go to the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Smith and all of the Healthy Living columnists at

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?