Penny wise/Pound foolish? Breaking
tablets to save money may be dangerous.
Many medications cost the same no matter what strength is
prescribed; for example, a Mevacor® (lovastatin) 40 mg
tablet costs the same as a Mevacor 20 mg tablet. The reason
is so that consumers who have to take larger doses don't have
to pay more than patients who take lower doses. It sounds
like a great idea, but the latest trend to save money is to
have the physician prescribe the higher dose and then cut
the tablets in half or quarter to make smaller doses. The
problem is that some medications should not be split because
they are specially coated to be long-acting or to protect
the stomach. Also, if the tablets aren't split evenly, the
patient might not be getting the exact dose. Finally, patients
might forget and take whole tablets instead of half.
We recommend that, if the medication can be split, the physician
writes specific directions on the prescription; for example,
"Take 1/2 tab daily." Have your pharmacist cut all the tablets
for you, or buy a pharmacy pill cutter and do it yourself
when you fill the prescription. And don't try to cut anything
into less than a half tab--the dose will not be accurate.
Institute for Safe Medication Practices