Tablet Splitting Can Save You a Bundle
Study Shows That Splitting Prescription Drugs Is Safe and Much Cheaper
Nov. 11, 2004 (New Orleans) -- A Florida pharmacist has hit upon an antidote to the skyrocketing cost of some prescription drugs: splitting the tablets in half.
David Parra, a clinical pharmacist at the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center, tells WebMD that tablet splitting of one popular cholesterol-lowering drug alone can save people more than $850 a year. If you're taking multiple prescription drugs that lend themselves to the practice, the savings could be even greater.
He presented his findings at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association.
Many prescription drugs are available in higher-dose tablets for the same price as lower-dose tablets, he says. By splitting the higher-dose tablets in half, people can get their usual dose for about half the cost. For example, if someone's doctor says he or she needs 20 milligrams of Zocor to lower cholesterol, the doctor can write a prescription for 40 milligrams and the patient can split the pill in half. That way, the prescription would last for 60 days.
The Department of Veterans Affairs saved $46.5 million in 2003 by having eligible patients split their tablets of the popular cholesterol-lowering statin drug Zocor, he says.
Parra's study shows that taking split tablets of the cholesterol-lowering drug Zocor works just as well as swallowing them whole. The research was supported by the VA.
In a one-year study of more than 1,000 people with similar starting cholesterol levels, "bad" LDL cholesterol dropped to a similar degree (about eight points) in those who took the split tablets and those who continued on their whole tablets.
Importantly, the practice was safe, with no differences seen in adverse side effects in people who practiced the prescription tablet splitting.
Based on the study, the VA implemented the prescription tablet-splitting program throughout the network. In 2003, 86% of eligible Zocor prescriptions in VA nationwide were split. As an example of the potential savings to an individual, Parra notes that one pharmacy chain in his area charges $148 for a one-month supply of both 40-milligram and 80-milligram tablets of Zocor; the savings for one person prescribed 40 milligrams who splits an 80-milligram tablet could be more than $850 per year, he says.