Cut Pills and Cut Costs – But is it Safe?

cut pills cut costsWhen my aunt got home from refilling my prescription of Lexapro, an anti-anxiety medication, she found that there were fewer pills in the bottle.  Instead of thinking things through on her own, she called the pharmacy and told them they had made a mistake.

The pharmacy technician was very kind and patient as she fussed at her, then explained that her insurance company, in trying to cut costs, requires that she fill a larger prescription, then cut the pills in half.  Instead of 30 tablets of 10mg each, the prescription is written for 15 tablets of 20 mg each.  This saves the company a significant amount of money.

Scary! What if she’d taken an entire pill and headed off on errands in her car, not knowing that she had accidentally taken twice the amount of medicine prescribed? The pharmacist (out-of-state), should have told her when she picked up the prescription.

If you pay for prescriptions either fully or partially out of pocket, could you save money this way as well?  Many do, but there are safety concerns that need to be addressed.  Let’s talk about those now.

How do I know if a medication is safe to split?

Here are things you need to know:

  • Just because a tablet is scored (has a line down the middle) does not mean it is safe to be split.  These tablets, though not always safe to split, will be easier to split because of the scoring (strange, I know).
  • In the paperwork that comes with each prescription you pick up, the FDA states whether or not the medication is okay to split.
  • If you would like to know specifically, talk with your health care provider or pharmacist.

What medications are never safe to split?

  • Tablets with a hard outer coating
  • Extended release pills
  • Capsules, those containing either gel or powder
  • Tiny or asymmetrical tablets

If you do find that you can save money by splitting pills yourself, you’ll need a pill cutter.  They can be found at your local pharmacy, and are priced well under $10.  Some insurance providers will mail a pill cutter to members for free, so check with your insurance company to see if this is the case for you.

What should I remember when cutting pills?

For your and your family’s safety, cleanliness is of great importance when cutting pills. Wash your hands before and after taking on the task, and wash the pill cutter in warm soapy water after each use and allow to air dry.

Lastly, it’s a great idea to check with your pharmacist before you decide to cut pills at home; certain medications maintain their effectiveness after cutting, while others should be cut one at a time as you use them.  Check with us to see what will work best for your situation.

Oh, and anytime something looks different about your pills, ask your pharmacist immediately! They may have made an error in dispensing, or in my friend’s case, changed the prescription, which requires a change in how you take your medicine.

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