Skip to content
Font Size
A
A
A

Pill Splitting: When Is It Safe? When Is It Unsafe?

Pill splitting can help save almost 50% of the cost of some prescription drugs.
By
WebMD Feature

Want to save almost 50% on some of your prescription drugs? Buy a $5 pill splitter.

Well, it's not quite that simple. But because of a quirk of how some drugs are priced, a tablet that's twice as strong as another may not be twice the price. In fact, it might be about the same price. So, sometimes, cutting a higher strength pill in half can get you two doses for about the price of one. With a little manual labor -- just snapping down the lid of a pill cutter with your finger -- pill splitting can save quite a lot of money.

Recommended Related to Drugs and Herbs

What Is a Drug Recall?

Medicine is rigorously tested for safety and effectiveness before becoming available to the consumer. In the U.S., the FDA makes sure this happens. Once on the market, the FDA, along with the makers of the drug, continue to monitor the medicine for any unforeseen problems. Should an issue develop, or the safety of a medication come into question, a recall may be initiated.

Read the What Is a Drug Recall? article > >

Pill splitting is a cost-saving solution so effective and so simple that many people -- not to mention health care systems and HMOs -- have embraced it.

But pill splitting is not right for every person, or every pill. "Sometimes, it makes a lot of financial sense to split pills," says Kevin Schulman, MD, Professor of Medicine and business administration at the Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C. "But if you try to split the wrong sort of medications, that could be potentially dangerous."

So here's the lowdown: when pill splitting makes sense and when it doesn't.

Why Cutting Pills Cuts Costs

First, you might want an answer to the obvious question: how could this be? Why would a drug that's twice as powerful as another cost the same? It's a marketing strategy sometimes used by pharmaceutical companies called "flat pricing." Regardless of potency, the price of a specific pill is more or less equal.

Part of the reasoning is that it protects patients from price jumps if they start to need a higher dose of a medicine. Suddenly doubling the price of a drug they've been using for years might cause them to stop taking it. It also might be seen as financially punishing a person for getting sicker, says Schulman.

It also has to do with production expenses. The cost difference in manufacturing a 10-milligram pill and a 20-milligram pill is less than you might think.

"With some drugs, the biggest cost is not the active ingredient, but making the pill itself," says Rich Sagall, president and co-founder of NeedyMeds, a Philadelphia nonprofit that provides information about financial assistance for drugs. "And that cost is pretty much the same no matter how much of the active ingredient is used."

While it was probably not the intention of pharmaceutical companies when they devised this pricing system, it's ideal for the practice of pill splitting.

1 | 2 | 3

Hot Topics

WebMD Video: Now Playing

Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Popular Slideshows & Tools on WebMD

sore foot
3 warning signs.
acupuncture needle on shoulder
10 tips to look and feel good.
Epinephrine Injection using Auto-Injector Syringe
Life-threatening triggers.
disciplining a boy
Types, symptoms, causes.
psoriasis
What it looks like.
checking blood sugar
Symptoms and treatment.
man behind computer screen
10 possible causes.
Woman with itchy watery eyes
Common triggers.
man screaming
Making sense of symptoms.
human liver
What puts you at risk?
caregiver with parent
10 tips for daily life.
two male hands
Understanding RA.

Pollen counts, treatment tips, and more.

It's nothing to sneeze at.

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

Thanks!

Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

Women's Health Newsletter

Find out what women really need.