Splitting pills: Dos and don’ts

We’ve long advocated pill-splitting as a great way to save money on prescription drugs — but the caveat is that it only works with some pills.

Pharmacist Richard Harkness offers a list of pills that can be safely split, as well as a list of those to avoid splitting, in Prevention Magazine. Keep in mind that this list is far from comprehensive — and always be sure to check with your doctor or pharmacist before splitting pills.

Do Split

Don’t Split

  • Tablets that break into multiple pieces–you won’t get an accurate dose
  • Sustained-release (SR) or extended-release (XR) tablets (a few such pills can be split–check with your prescriber)
  • Enteric-coated tablets (“candylike” hard coating) Tablets designed to be placed under the tongue (sublingual)
  • Tablets designed to be placed between the cheek and gum (buccal)
  • Certain two- or three-drug combination tablets (e.g., Capozide)
  • Narrow therapeutic index (NTI) drugs (e.g., warfarin, digoxin, lithium)

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Comments (3)

There can be a real danger in splitting medications that should not be split. My sister was trying to make her medicine last until she could fill her prescriptions and was splitting pills. One was a sustained reaction pill. Even though she only took half of the medication, she ended up overmedicating herself because it was released into her body too fast.

Thanks for sharing that, Annie. Readers, take note.

Also it should be noted that not all pills can be crushed or dissolved in liquid either. Working in healthcare, we often had to find alternative methods for patients who could not swallow their pills. Always check with the pharmacist, not the doctor- the doctors often do not know and can tell you the wrong thing.

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