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Ask an Expert: Is it Safe to Split Pills to Save Money?

If you spend any time researching ways to save money on prescription medications, you have likely come across an article or blog post about pill splitting. While this can be an effective way to lower costs, it can be dangerous with some medications. This method is not safe for everyone. Ken Majkowski, Pharm.D and Chief Pharmacy Officer at FamilyWize, explains what you need to know to split pills safely.

Facts About Pill Splitting to Save Money

Here is what you need to know before you consider pill or tablet splitting as an option for your treatment:

You may need a new prescription first

There is a misconception that patients save money splitting pills simply by splitting the medication they already have in their medicine cabinet. If you were to do that, you would effectively be cutting your doses in half and therefore you would not be following your treatment as prescribed .

Instead, patients who are interested in splitting pills should work with their doctor and pharmacist. Most of the time, your doctor will prescribe a higher dose (i.e., higher concentration of medication per pill). You will fill that prescription and then split the stronger pills – maintaining your dose as prescribed.

It is important to talk to your pharmacist about the cost of a prescription that requires pill splitting versus one that does not. Sometimes the cost is equivalent, especially if you have an insurance plan with a tiered prescription benefit. You could be creating extra work for no added financial benefit.

Not every pill or tablet is safe to split

There are two easy ways to identify if the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved your pill to be split. First, it should say so on the prescription label, usually in the “HOW SUPPLIED” section. Second, the tablet should be scored with a line to show you exactly where to split it. This shows you that the FDA had determined that the two halves of a split tablet work the same way in the body as the whole tablet.

Please note that if your medication contains a controlled substance or if it is a capsule, a gel tablet, or an extended release tablet, it is NOT safe to split .

Even if your medication is approved by the FDA to be split, it is always safest to speak with your pharmacist before splitting any tablets.

Not every pill splitter is the same

A pill splitter is a tool that can help you properly and safely split medications. There are many different inexpensive pill splitters available at your local drug store and/or big box retailers. Each one is slightly different and may not be the right size/shape for your particular medication. Your pharmacist can recommend which pill splitter may work best for you.

Never split your whole supply of pills at once

While it may seem efficient to split your entire supply of pills when you first get home from the pharmacy, this is not a safe practice. Factors such as heat, humidity, and/or moisture content can change the efficacy of the medication. Because split tablets are often very small, there is also the risk that you will lose pieces or confuse doses. Pills should only be split as they are about to be used.

It is important to remember that pill splitting is not the only way to save money on prescription medications. Comparing prices across pharmacies and using free prescription discount programs are also highly effective ways to dramatically reduce how much your family spends on medications.

This post is part of our “Ask an Expert” blog series by Ken Majkowski, Pharm.D, the Chief Pharmacy Officer at FamilyWize. Ken brings more than 40 years of healthcare experience to the FamilyWize team, including 14 years of clinical pharmacy experience in retail, hospital, and home care. Read his full bio here.

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