Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Font Size

Splitting Pills May Have Risks

Study Shows Patients Who Split Pills May End Up With Doses That Are Too High or Too Low
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Jan. 7, 2011 -- Pill splitting, a common practice among many people who are looking to cut medication costs or dosages, is risky business, according to a study in the January issue of the Journal of Advanced Nursing.

Some pills can’t be split 50-50 and there can be a narrow margin between a dose that can help you and one that can hurt you, the researchers report.

“Not all formulations are available for splitting, and even when they are, large dose deviation or weight losses can occur [and] this could have serious clinical consequences for medication with a narrow therapeutic-toxic range,” write researchers who were led by Charlotte Verrue, PharmD, PhD, of Ghent University in Belgium.

In the study, five volunteers split eight different types of pills using a kitchen knife, scissors/hands, or a pill splitter. The participants split the pills into quarters or halves using these three methods. Of the eight types of pills, three had one score down the middle, two had two scores like a cross, and three were unscored. The medications used were for a host of conditions, including Parkinson’s disease, arthritis, and heart disease.

The researchers weighed the tablet and its parts before and after splitting. They found that 31% of the pill slices deviated from their recommended doses by more than 15% and 14% of the pill fragments deviated by more than 25%. Even the most accurate means of pill splitting, the pill splitter, was associated with margins of error.

“We have tested all kinds of tablets: big, small, round, with or without scoring line ... and tried to find an overall method that is best suitable for splitting tablets,” says Verrue in an email to WebMD.  “Dose deviation when splitting tablets is not always a problem. For example, for chronic therapies (e.g. hypertension, etc.) it often doesn't matter when a patient takes a little more of a drug one day and a little less the next day. It becomes problematic when we are talking about bigger dose deviations and drugs that have a narrow therapeutic index (i.e. when a small difference in dosage can have a big difference in effect).”

If you must split your pills, use a splitting device, the researchers conclude.

1 | 2 | 3

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