DEar Savvy Senior: When is it safe or not to split the pills? I have a cousin who cuts almost all of her pills in half to save money, but I wonder if she is going too far. What can you tell me about this? – Curious cousin
Dear curious: Splitting pills – literally cutting them in half – has long been a popular way to save on drug costs. But if she hasn’t already, your cousin should talk to her doctor or pharmacist because not all pills need to be split.
The reason why pill splitting saves money is the way drugs are made and their price. A pill twice as strong as another might not be twice as expensive. In fact, it is usually the same price.
This means that buying a double dose and halving it could get you two months of medicine for the price of one.
But is it safe? As long as your doctor agrees that splitting your pills is okay and you learn how to do it correctly, there really is no danger.
Ask your doctor
If you want to split your pills, start by talking to your doctor or pharmacist to find out which drugs you are taking are safe to split. It’s also important to calculate if dividing them will save you enough money to justify the hassle.
The easiest pills to split are those with a score in the middle. The most commonly divided pills are cholesterol lowering drugs, antidepressants, and blood pressure medications.
It’s important to note, however, that not all of the pills rated are meant to be split.
Using a pill divider
It is important to know that the pills are only safely split in half, never into smaller portions such as thirds or quarters.
Having the right equipment is extremely important. Do not use a knife or scissors to cut your pills in half. This can cause you to divide them unevenly, resulting in two pieces with very different dosages, which can be dangerous. Buy a suitable pill cutter that has a lid and a V-shaped handle that holds the pill securely in place. You can find them at most drugstores for $ 5-10.
For convenience, you might be tempted to split the entire pill bottle at once. But it is better to do the splitting on the day you take the first half. This will help prevent the drugs from spoiling due to exposure to heat, humidity, and air. It will also help ensure that any deviation in the size of one dose is made up for by the next.
Do not divide these drugs
Some pills should never be split. Sustained or long-lasting release drugs and tablets containing a combination of drugs should probably not be divided, as it is difficult to ensure an appropriate amount of active ingredient in each half. Pills with a coating to protect your stomach and pills that easily crumble or irritate the mouth should also not be separated, as well as chemotherapy drugs, anti-seizure drugs, birth control pills and capsules containing powders or gels.
Again, your doctor or pharmacist will know which drugs can and cannot be divided. If you are taking a medicine that can be divided, you will need to get a prescription from your doctor for twice the dose you need. Then you can safely start dividing and saving.
Jim Miller is a contributor to NBC-TV’s “Today” and the author of “The Savvy Senior”. Send your questions to Savvy Senior, PO Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070; or visit savvysenior.org.