Some pharmacists have reported that patients have changed the way they take
medications because of the downturn in the economy, according to a recent
survey by the American Pharmacists Association. This includes skipping doses and
splitting tablets in an effort to save money. Regarding the practice of splitting
tablets, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the American Medical
Association, and other medical organizations advise against it unless it’s specified
in the drug’s labeling.
Tablet splitting often involves buying higher strength tablets and then breaking
the tablets in half or quarter doses as a way to lower drug costs. For instance, a
30 mg tablet may cost the same amount as the 15 mg tablet. So a patient may
try to save money by buying the 30 mg tablets and splitting them all in half. This
might seem like a smart money-saving strategy, but the practice can be risky.
Why Splitting Tablets is Risky
You might get confused about the correct dose. There have been
cases when people have purchased higher strength tablets intending to split them,
but then they forgot to split them. Instead, they took the whole tablet. This led
to accidentally taking too much medicine.
Equal distribution of medicine in split tablets is questionable. Studies
have shown that the actual dose in each half of a split tablet often is different.
So while the two halves may look the same, they don't necessarily contain equal
amounts of medicine. Even if the tablet is scored with a line that runs down the
middle, one half may actually have more medicine than the other.
Some tablets are hard to split. Some tablets are too small to split,
may have an unusual shape that makes them hard to split, or may crumble more
easily when split. Also, some people may not be able to split tablets correctly.
These factors make it difficult to accurately split a tablet.
Not all pills are safe to split. Patients may mistakenly think that any
pill can be split. But some pills, such as capsules and time-released drugs, should
always be taken whole. For example, some tablets are coated with a substance
that helps to release the medicine slowly. Splitting these tablets destroys the
coating, which means you might absorb the medicine too fast or not at all.
What if You Still Want to Split a Tablet?
FDA has approved drugs where tablet splitting is part of the manufacturer’s drug
application. If the tablet is approved for splitting, the information will be provided
in the drug’s professional prescribing information. If considering splitting a tablet,
FDA recommends that you seek advice from your doctor or pharmacist to
determine whether it is appropriate or not for a particular medicine.
NCPIE encourages healthcare professionals and community groups to foster patient–professional communication about medicines. However, NCPIE does not supervise or endorse the activities of any group or professional. Discussion and action concerning medicines are solely the responsibility of the patient and their healthcare professionals, and not NCPIE.
Please consult a licensed health care professional with questions or concerns about your medication and/or condition.