When it comes to diet, splitting portions in half is a weight loss strategy. But when it comes to prescription medicines, half portions could be dangerous.
"Many people don't share with their physician that they are splitting their pills, and significant numbers of people are doing it," says Touro Infirmary urologist Neil Baum. "If they don't take the medication as prescribed by the physician, they're putting themselves at a great risk."
Patients sometimes split pills or skip doses because they are experiencing uncomfortable side effects. For example, a side effect of medications for high blood pressure is erectile dysfunction. According to WebMD.com, 70 percent of men who experience side effects from blood pressure medicine stop taking it instead of asking their doctors to change their prescription to one without sexual side effects. This can lead to a stroke or heart attack that is potentially life-threatening. A doctor can prescribe medications much less likely to cause problems.
Some patients who split pills use scissors or a knife and guess where the center is, often in an attempt to save money. The most accurate way to split pills is by using a pill splitter that costs about $10. But still, nothing is exact and splitting the pill could change its effectiveness, especially if the pill is made to be time-released gradually in your body.
"I see so many patients who are unable to fill their medications or they get their medications and they don't refill them," Baum says. "And this is particularly dangerous for people who have heart disease, high blood pressure or ... high cholesterol levels."
Patients also may split their medications because they have trouble swallowing large pills. However, Baum urges patients to communicate with their doctors before deciding dosages themselves, because doctors can switch patients to liquid prescriptions if a pill is too big, or change formulas if a pill is causing unwanted side effects. At the very least, it's important to provide accurate information for your medical records
"I encourage all people who are going to pill split to inform their doctor so it goes on the record," Baum says. "The doctor is aware of it, and doctors understand (when patients have limited funds)."