Thursday, July 30, 2009

Medication Pill Splitting Safe? Dangerous? Depends.

FDA press release titled "Tablet Splitting: A Risky Practice" is unfortunately a very misleading title and makes you wonder whether FDA is independent enough from the pharmaceutical industry.

Yes, no doubt people are trying to make their healthcare dollars last and are skipping pills, taking them less often, or even splitting them, but is dividing pills really a risky practice?

The points FDA says splitting isn't safe include:
  • You might get confused about the correct dose.
  • Equal distribution of medicine in split tablets is questionable.
  • Some tablets are hard to split.
  • Not all pills are safe to split.
All true. But buried at the end of the news bulletin FDA notes:
FDA has approved drugs where tablet splitting is part of the manufacturer’s drug application. "If the tablet is approved for splitting, the information will be provided in the drug’s professional prescribing information," says Mansoor Khan, Ph.D., director of the Division of Product Quality Research in FDA's Office of Pharmaceutical Science.

What do you believe? Personally, I would suggest Consumer Reports take on medication splitting. They suggest you don't split these medications:

  • Chemotherapy drugs
  • Anti-seizure medicines
  • Birth control pills
  • Blood thinners (Coumadin, warfarin)
  • Capsules of any kind that contain powders or gels
  • Pills with a hard outside coating
  • Pills designed to release the medication over time in your body
  • Pills that are coated to protect your stomach
  • Pills that provide drug release throughout the day
  • Pills that crumble easily, irritate your mouth, taste bitter, or contain strong dyes that could stain your teeth and your mouth.

Still confused if you can skip, decrease dosage, or split the pills? Do you know what you should really do?

Ask your doctor or pharmacist! Sometimes skipping medication is like not taking it at all or increases your risk of having a much more expensive medical complication occur. For example stopping the blood thinner PLAVIX within a year of having a heart stent could block it causing you to have a heart attack! Taking it every other day may not be safe either or substituting aspirin.

Other options include less pricey, but often equally effective generic medications. But how could you possibly know unless you ask for help?

Who do you call?

Ask your doctor or pharmacist!

If either make you feel embarrassed or small, doubtful given this economy, then find another doctor or pharmacist!

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