Pill Splitting Do’s and Don’ts to Save on Prescription Drugs

So many of us nowadays are taking prescription drugs and the cost of them seems to be ever increasing. With that being said, there are ways to save some money and still get the medication you need in the right dosages. One way is called pill splitting and it’s being done every day by some regular prescription users all around the country, including my wife and me.

Pill Splitting Do's and Don'ts to Save on Prescription Drugs

The reason this is such a good idea is pretty simple. The cost of drugs generally doesn’t change by its dosage. If you’re taking a 20 mg dose of Furosemide (a diuretic to keep water from accumulating in your body), for example, and get a 30-day supply, it will cost you the same as if you got a 40 mg prescription. The reason for that isn’t just bad planning and pricing by the drug companies. Actually, it’s just the opposite. The pricing is a market strategy called flat pricing and it’s done for a couple of reasons.

First, the cost of actually making the drugs isn’t very much different when the dosages are increased. The real cost of the drug is in the making of the pill itself (and the research it took to get to that point). By using the flat pricing policy, the drug companies are actually doing you a favor. One, they are preventing a price jump if your dosages need to be increased. This also makes it less likely that you will stop using the drug due to increased cost, since the cost will remain the same. Second, they’re not being perceived as punishing you if you become sicker as time goes on.

And guess what? Because of this policy, it makes perfect sense for you to consider pill splitting! Pill splitting requires a prescription for double the dosage of medication, which is then split in half to your actual dosage. Since buying the higher dosage won’t cost more, but will last you twice as long, you can save 50% of the cost.

The first thing you should do is talk to your doctor about what pills you currently take that can be split. The kinds of pills that are most commonly split include:

  • Statins, like Crestor, Lipitor, and Zocor
  • Antidepressants, like Paxil, Lexapro, and Zoloft
  • ACE inhibitors, like Zestril
  • Angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs), like Avapro and Diovan

All you need is your doctor’s advice and a reliable pill splitter to get the job done and you will start saving immediately, up to hundreds of dollars per month.

Do’s and Don’ts of Pill Splitting

1. Always consult with your doctor and pharmacist when considering pill splitting.

Not all pills can be safely split. Get your doctor’s permission and a prescription for the higher dosage to get started.

2. Never split time-released medications, capsules, enterically coated pills, or small uneven-shaped pills.

Doing so is not safe and can cause unintended complications.

3. Never use a kitchen knife or scissors to do the actual splitting.

Cutting the pills that way can cause uneven cuts or crumbling that will increase or decrease the dosages resulting in you getting too much or not enough of your medication. Always use a pill splitter that you can find and buy at your pharmacy for a one-time investment of about $5.

4. Never cut all of your pills in advance of when you will need them.

Pills cut in advance can be exposed to oxygen which will reduce the potency of your meds and may make them less effective. Split pills as you need them for use, or check with your pharmacist who may cut them for you and put them in a protective bottle to help prevent humidity and oxygen from affecting them.

5. Always wash your hands and clean your splitter each time you use it.

Avoid transferring the dust or pieces from one medication to another medication.

Pill splitting is not the perfect solution for everyone. Here’s what else could go wrong:

  • Uneven doses – a small difference might put your health at risk
  • Crushed pills – whole pills could be wasted
  • Miscommunications – ½ pill might be misunderstood as 1-2 pills
  • Confusion – if you forget to split a pill, you could receive too high a dosage
  • Inaccuracy – if you have a medical condition that affects your eyes or hands, it can be difficult to split pills evenly

If your doctor approves pill splitting—and he/she should if the cost is important to you and the meds have proven to work successfully if split—you can order higher dosages of your meds and start savings 50% of your money right away!

Do you take any prescription drugs that might be able to be split? How much are you saving/could you save on your monthly costs?

Image courtesy of amenic181 at freedigitalphotos.net (with changes)


  1. Jayson @ Monster Piggy Bank

    My mom does pill splitting with her medication for her cardiovascular disease. It was advised by her doctor to split the drug into two to save money. She said that her doctor doubled the normal dose. I think she can get a 2-month supply of medicine for the price of one.

    1. Margaret, I wanted to get back to you about your comment.

      I had a conversation with my doctor today about the pill splitting question. While a doctor may have some concerns about this, it is primarily because they are fearful that a patient might “misdose” themselves by either faulty pill splitting or just forgetting to split the pill at all and thus overdosing the amount.

      It is also a fact that doctors are morally responsible to prescribe properly and they want to do that. However, there is no legal issue that I am aware of preventing them from prescribing the proper meds at higher doses (with properly labelled instructions) to someone that responsibly will act and split a pill, and otherwise couldn’t afford the meds and might suffer or even die without it.

      Often when a dosage is reduced and a patient has an older supply of his meds, doctors will suggest splitting pills to avoid wasting the remaining prescription and the money.

      Meds like I take often sell at retail (even with my insurance benefit) at as much as $400 a month and thus splitting a pill can mean saving $200 each month. I also take two other very expensive meds that would be difficult to afford without this accommodation.

      If your doctor is sympathetic to your need to save and feels it is in YOUR best interest, they often will prescribe when it is feasible to split the higher dosage. Pharmacists should educate patients about the risks to consider when deciding whether or not to split pills.

      The FDA approves the manufacture of pills which are intended to be split (see their guidelines here). However, splitting pills may result in uneven splitting and creating pieces which do not deliver an accurate dosage.

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