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Saturday November 26, 2022

Savvy Living

Savvy Senior

Pill Splitting: Tips to Discuss with Your Doctor

When is it safe, or not safe, to split pills? I have a cousin who cuts almost all her pills in half in order to save money, but I am wondering if she is going overboard. What can you tell me about this?

The practice of cutting pills in half or "pill splitting" has long been a popular way to save on medication costs. However, it is imperative to talk to a doctor or pharmacist before trying this because not all pills should be split.

The reason pill splitting may be a cost saver is because of the way drugs are manufactured and priced. A pill that is twice as strong as another may not be twice the price. In fact, it may be similar in price. So, buying a double-strength dose and cutting it in half may allow you to get two months' worth of medicine for the price of one. But is it safe? If your doctor agrees that splitting your pills is safe for you and instructs you how to do it properly, this may be a helpful idea to consider.

Ask Your Doctor

If you are interested in splitting your pills, talk to your doctor or pharmacist to find out if any of the medications you use can be safely split. It is also important to find out whether splitting them will save you enough money to justify the hassle.

The pills that are easiest to split are those with a score down the middle. However, not every pill that is scored is meant to be split. Some types of pills that can potentially be split are cholesterol lowering drugs, antidepressants and high blood pressure medicines.

Use a Pill Splitter

Having the right equipment is very important too. Do not use a knife or scissors to cut your pills in half. These tools may cause you to split pills unevenly, resulting in two pieces with very different dosages. This variation in doses might be dangerous. Purchase a proper pill cutter that has a cover and a V-shaped pill grip that holds the pill securely in place. You can find them at most pharmacies for $5 to $10.

For convenience, you might be tempted to split the whole bottle of pills at once. However, your doctor or pharmacist may suggest it is best to do the splitting on the day you take the first half, and then take the other half on the second day or whenever you are scheduled to take your next dose. That will help keep the drugs from deteriorating due to exposure to heat, moisture or air. It is also important to know that pills are only safely split in half, and never into smaller portions such as into thirds or quarters.

Do Not Split These Drugs

Some pills should never be split. Drugs that are time-released or long-lasting and tablets that contain a combination of drugs probably should not be split, because it is difficult to ensure a proper amount of active ingredients in each half. Pills with a coating to protect your stomach, and pills that crumble easily or irritate your mouth should not be split either. Other drugs that should not be split include chemotherapy drugs, anti-seizure medicines, birth control pills and capsules containing powders or gels.

Once again, your doctor or pharmacist will know which drugs can and cannot be split. If you are taking a medicine that can be split, talk to your doctor about getting your prescription adjusted. Then you can start safely splitting pills and saving money.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published December 17, 2021
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