• BREAKING NEWS ABC shows live and on-demand -- Download the WATCH ABC app!

Safely splitting Rx pills can save money

October 26, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Prescription drugs often cost the same whether you buy an 80-milligram dose, a 40-milligram dose or even 20-milligrams.You can often save a bundle by buying the larger milligram dose and splitting the pills, but splitting some prescriptions is just bad medicine.

If you take medications on a regular basis, you might want to ask your doctor or pharmacist if the pills can be cut in half.

It won't work with pills in capsule or gel forms, and you should never do it without the consent of your physician.

We spend more than $277 billion 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 a year," said Cohen.

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 that 10 percent of people who regularly take prescription drugs split their pills without telling their doctor.

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

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. The pill can crumble and the dose is imprecise," said Santa.

Instead, doctors recommend using a pill splitter.

"You just line it up, center the pill, and use the device," Santa described.

And be aware that 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 and cost anywhere from $3 to $10.

Medications can only be safely split in half - never in thirds or quarters, and keep in mind that not all medicines can be split.


Load Comments