The Pill Splitting Controversy - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

11/17/04-Tyler

The Pill Splitting Controversy

When asked why she started pill-splitting, Gertrude Black replies, "To save money, if they give me a bigger dose than what they want me to take, then I split them in two." The Tyler resident says she takes around 15 pills per day for a wide range of medical problems including heart congestion, fainting, a stomach pill taken four times a day and she's also prescribed Allegra. "They're really high," she admits, and so are the costs to buy her prescriptions-- that's why she began splitting her pills about a year ago.

"[For] a lot of people, it's the only way they could get their medication," says Mark Sullivan, a pharmacist at Good's Pharmacy in Tyler. Sullivan says pill-splitting is not a new practice and says it's not a surprise that mainly the elderly do it. "In the elderly population, a lot of people take a lot of medicine as we know, and when you're trying to cope with that budget every month, we find that, quite often, people are resorting to pill splitting to meet their budget every month."

You can go in just about any pharmacy and find a pill splitter for as little as $4 or $5, but don't rush out to get one just yet, because the pills you take may not be fit to split which can go from treating your medical problem, to making it worse. Prime example, a Zocor tablet, used to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. "There's no lines or divisions anywhere on [the Zocor] tablet," explains Sullivan. "And it's film-coated as well so it would make it real difficult for someone to split that in half and make sure they're getting the appropriate doses, very difficult." The pharmacist then shows us a tablet that can be split. "Here is an example of a tablet that is scored, you can see the line division in the middle, that is designed either to be taken whole or split in half." So any tablet with a dividing line in the middle can be split right? Wrong. Sullivan shows us another example of a blood thinner medication with a line division in the middle that can't be split. "You just have to be very careful with drugs like this, if you were to get 3/4's of this tablet by mistake, it can make a difference rather than taking half a tablet it could make you bleed more."

"If we talk about it at the time of the visit, we could then educate the patient and we could try to find options for them," says KLTV 7 Med Team Doctor Ed Dominguez. He says pill-splitting is appropriate only if it's done with the right kind of medicine. He also says putting some of the pressure back on your doctor, could take the pressure off your wallet. "Let your prescriber know look, money is an issue with me, this is the x-amount of money I have to spend on these and if you're going to prescribe two new medications for me they have to fit within my budget."

Although Gertrude wouldn't prescribe pill-splitting to anyone else, she believes saving on the cost of her medications any way she can, outweighs the risk of getting sick.

Christine Nelson, reporting. cnelson@kltv.com

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