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50+: Live Better, Longer

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Cutting Pills in Half Could Pose Problems

Pharmacists Suggest Pill-Splitting Practice Can't Be Mandated
WebMD Health News

May 19, 2004 -- Cutting pills in half is a widely accepted strategy for lowering the cost of prescription medications, and there has even been talk by some insurers of mandating the practice for certain drugs. But a new study involving a commonly prescribed muscle relaxant suggests patients may not be getting what they think they are getting when they split pills.

In pill splitting, a doctor may prescribe a pill with double the needed dose of medication, telling the patient to split the pills and only take half of a pill. This doubles the amount of medication the patient purchased, thereby saving the patient money.

Researchers found that uneven tablet splitting resulted in varying dosages of the split pill, ranging anywhere from 50% to 150% of appropriate levels. Researchers say this occurred regardless of whether a commercial available pill splitter or a kitchen knife was used to cut the pills.

Pharmacy professor Thomas Cook, PhD, who led the study, tells WebMD that while pill splitting may be an acceptable practice in certain situations, it could easily lead to problems if used on the wrong drug or for the wrong patient.

"You may realize a cost savings in terms of the price of the drug, but there are also questions of efficacy and safety when people don't end up taking the prescribed dosage of a drug," he says.

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