Shopping for Drugs: 2007

Studies | Health

No. 293
Thursday, November 16, 2006
by Devon Herrick, Ph.D.


Pill Splitting

Table II - Candidates for Pill Splitting

Another way to lower drug costs is to purchase medications in doses double the prescribed amount and split them in half.  Pill splitting saves money because many medications sell for about the same price regardless of dosage.  Take Viagra, for example.  If ordered from Costco.com, six Viagra tablets cost $57.67 ($9.61 each), regardless of whether the dose is 25mg, 50mg or 100mg.69 

Many tablets are scored across the center to facilitate splitting.  Viagra, however, is an odd-shaped tablet that is difficult to split into two perfect halves.70  To solve this problem, several firms produce splitters designed just for the diamond-shaped tablet.  Thus, patients will save 50 percent when they buy double-dose tablets and split them in half.  For a variety of pill shapes, Precision Pill Splitters makes pill splitting devices that create two perfect halves.  One model has interchangeable pill beds that exactly fit the shape of specific medications.  The company also makes a device to quarter a pill.71 

While many popular medications may be suitable for splitting or quartering, others are not, including extended release tablets, capsules and medications for many serious disorders. 72  An important consideration is whether or not a patient is able to accurately cut a tablet.  Elderly patients may find pill splitting difficult; however, some pharmacists will split or crush and encapsulate pills. 

"Smart Shopping: Split higher-dose pills."Some public health advocates question whether splitting can result in halves equal enough in weight to be safe - especially if pill splitting is required by the insurance company's formulary.73  But research from the University of Maryland found that pill splitting is a viable option.74  And researchers at Stanford University found substantial consumer savings from splitting 11 of 265 of commonly prescribed medications.75  Potential savings range from 23 percent to 50 percent for these drugs.76    Table II illustrates the potential savings for selected drugs. 


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