NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 8, 2009

Some health insurers have begun suggesting that patients consider splitting pills, while other insurers are worried about the liabilities and safety associated with such measures, the Denver Post reports.

Patients whose doctors prescribe a higher-dose pill often can save money.  For example:

  • A 30-day supply of a 40-milligram pill costs about the same as a 30-day supply of 20-milligram pills.
  • Doctors are supposed to write such prescriptions only for pills that can be split safely.


  • In Colorado, United Healthcare has started telling patients taking certain medications that they can split their pills and also offers them a pill splitter at no cost.
  • Cigna HealthCare, however, does not support splitting pills, citing a study that even pharmacists were able to properly split pills only 32 percent of the time.
  • Members of Kaiser Permanente Colorado pay the same amount for whole pills or ones they could split in half.

University of Colorado Denver School of Pharmacy professor Brian Hemstreet said some medications are dangerous to split.  A painkiller meant to release its ingredients over 12 hours could release a rush of medication if it has been cut, for example.

He called United's half-tablet program "a pretty big initiative," noting the rarity of an insurance company taking on the responsibility of encouraging customers to split pills.

Source: Jennifer Brown, "Cut pills split insurers," Denver Post, April 6, 2009.

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