Splitting your pills can be a great way to save money, but there are some things that you must consider when deciding if it’s right for you. In this article, we are going to cover everything you need to know about splitting your pills; the do’s and don’ts and especially how you can do it yourself at home without special equipment.
Quick note: Some insurance companies will allow you to split you medication and offer savings to customers, so please ask your insurance carrier if they do offer savings incentives for pill splitting.
What Is Pill Splitting?
In the past, pill splitting has been the subject of debate, but that doesn’t mean it’s something to be afraid of.
The concept is simple: you get the same prescription at a higher dosage, then divide the pills into smaller pieces to get the dosage recommended by your doctor, which saves you money per pill.
Here are a few examples of savings that you can achieve through pill splitting.
Generic Lexapro (escitalopram) tablet (prices may vary).
|10mg||#30||~$7.20||<- price after pill split|
|20mg||#30||~8.60||<- price after pill split|
Generic Zoloft (sertraline) (prices may vary).
|50mg||#30||~$7.20||<- price after pill split|
|100mg||#30||~$6.60||<- price after pill split|
First, Ask Your Pharmacist
Ask your pharmacist which of the pills you are currently taking can safely be split at home.
Your pharmacist is the expert here, and will take many different factors into account, including:
- The brittleness of the tablet
- If the tablet is scored
- Does the table have a protective coating
- If the tablet is too hard for splitting
- If the table is too soft for splitting
- If the table is timed or extended released or not
- If the medication uses capsules, which can’t be split
The FDA also provides guidelines on best practices for splitting pills that you can read.
How To Safely Split Pills At Home
Option 1: Try using a pill splitter
Pill Splitters are the easiest way to split pills. BUT, pill splitters can be aggressive on delicate and sometimes expensive pills.
If you choose to use a pill splitter, make sure the tablets are durable enough to be split this way.
What are the signs of a pill that isn’t suited for pill splitting? You’ll noticed:
- The pill crumbles
- The split isn’t even
- The tablet easily turns to powder
If you notice these things happening, try using one of the next two options.
Option 2: Split softer, curved tablets with your fingers
If your pills are curved, soft and scored then a great alternative to a pill splitter is to use your fingers. Softer pills split very easy with even pressure on each side of the score mark.
I’ve always enjoyed seeing how many people are surprised that this technique is so successful.
Option 3: What to do for flat, scored tablets that aren't too difficult to split
One trick that I have always used, is to place the score mark along a plastic ink pen and use the pen to evenly split the pill.
Press the tablet with your fingers evenly on each side of the score mark until the pill splits in half. Sometimes this will take a decent amount of pressure. Just make sure that you’re using the tips of your fingers to apply even, steady pressure and it will result in a clean break.
Unevenly shaped pills need to be accurately split in half, long ways. I do not recommend this practice due to inconsistent results.
Make sure you keep safety in mind
- Wash your hand before starting.
- If you are splitting tablets for others, use surgical gloves. Also ask about latex allergies before using latex gloves.
- When using a pill splitter, clean the pill splitter between different pills. (cross contamination can result in incorrect dosing).
- Ask you pharmacist or physician if it is ok to split your dose. (There have been many dosing mistakes made when a physician writes for 1/2 tablet and pharmacies fill the prescription with the directions saying fill for 1-2 tablets...please review your dosing with your physician.
- If you current tablet does not have a score mark, ask you pharmacist if they have a manufacturer that does offer a scored tablet.
Little savings add up. Pill splitting is a great technique and easy way to make the price of your medication easier to swallow. And remember: your doctor and pharmacist are your partners. They’re there to care for you in the way that fits you best. Talk to them, have the conversation and take another important step to taking control of your healthcare.
Ken Rose, RPh.
Ken is a multidisciplinary pharmacist, with over thirty eight years’ experience within Pharmacy and the Managed Care industries. He is a pharmacy savings gurus—helping people with all the ways they get their medicine: mail, retail, and hospital pharmacy, clinical programs, specialty pharmacy and health plans.