Consumer Report: Pill Splitting 411

By: Lauren Evans Email
By: Lauren Evans Email

Prescription drugs often cost the same whether they’re an
80-milligram dose, a 40-milligram dose, or even 20-milligrams. That’s why splitting pills can cut your costs significantly. But Consumer Reports Health cautions that only certain medications can be split — and never without the advice of your doctor.

We spend more than 277-billion dollars a year on prescription drugs. With mounting costs, many doctors are advising patients like Saul Cohen to split pills. By splitting his Lipitor medication, he’s cut his costs in half.

“I used to split my 40-milligram tablets into 20s, therefore I saved half, which was about 700 dollars a year,” Cohen says.

However, not all pills are safe to split, so it’s important to talk to your doctor or pharmacist first.

A recent poll by the Consumer Reports National Research Center found of people who regularly take prescription drugs, 10-percent split their pills without telling their doctor.

“This can be downright dangerous," says Dr. John Santa of Consumer Reports Health. "If you don’t get the right dose, the effect of your pill can be significantly increased or reduced.”

Flat, round pills are the easiest to split, as are pills with a scored center.
Among the safe-to-split drugs are many of the cholesterol-lowering statins, such as Lipitor, as well as antidepressants and drugs used to treat high blood pressure.

“You never want to use a knife," Santa says. "The pill can crumble and the dose is imprecise.”

Instead, use a pill splitter.

“You just line it up, center the pill, and use the device,” Santa explains.

And be aware, it’s important not to split pills in advance, but rather split them as needed.

Pill splitters are sold at pharmacies and large discount stores. They cost anywhere from three to ten dollars. Another point worth mentioning — medications can only be safely split in half — never in thirds or quarters. You can get a complete list of prescription drugs you can split and ones you shouldn’t by clicking on the Hot Button.

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  • by Sans on Oct 19, 2010 at 10:12 AM
    This is nothing new, people have been doing it for years, spliting pills, reusing insulin needles, etc. The stuff ain't cheap, and most people have a heartattack at the cost of everything. In 15 years I have watched our company go from a $3.00 co-pay to a $30.00 co-pay due to the cost of insurance, GM workers went from a $5 co-pay to $25 to $30 plus. The price of Medicine didn't just go up it went to the moon. People on Medicare danced for job when Wal-mart did their $4.00 generics, and I know people who make a lot of money who go to Wal-mart to fill prescriptions. For some it's take meds or eat. That's not right, and older people paid their dues and yet they are basically being told suck it up. The whole problem is greed be it insurance companies or Drug companies.
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