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Can I split my antidepressant pills to save money?

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Updated May 15, 2008

Can I split my antidepressant pills to save money? ©iStockphoto.com/erikwkolstad
Question: Can I split my antidepressant pills to save money?
From a reader: My doctor has prescribed Zoloft for my depression. I heard you can save money by splitting pills. Can I do that with Zoloft?
Answer:

Pill-splitting, although controversial, has become a popular way for people to save money on some prescription medications. In fact, some of the country's largest health insurers, such as UnitedHealth Group Kaiser Permanente and the Veterans Affairs Department, encourage their members to save money by splitting specific pills in half.

Splitting pills can save you money because drug companies often charge a similar price for varying doses of medication. Recently, for example, a popular online pharmacy charged $14.99 for 30 tablets of 50 mg of Zoloft (Sertraline) and $15.99 for 30 tablets of 100 mg of Zoloft. If your doctor has prescribed 50 mg of Zoloft, you can then purchase the larger dose, split the tablet in half and enjoy a savings of approximately $7.00 each month.

In a Shopper’s Guide to Prescription Drugs, Consumer Reports lists some common medications that can be split safely, including:

  • Cialis (Tadafil)
  • Crestor (Rosuvastatin)
  • Levitra (Vardenafil)
  • Lipitor (Atorvastatin)
  • Norvasc (Amlodipine)
  • Paxil (Paraxetine)
  • Pravachol (Pravastatin)
  • Proscar (Finasteride)
  • Synthroid (Levothyroxine)
  • Toprol (Metoprolol)
  • Viagra (Sildenafil)
  • Zocor (Simvastatin)
  • Zoloft (Sertraline)
  • Zyprexa (Olanzapine)

The following types of medications should not be split:

Capsules
Capsules may contain a liquid, powder, or tiny pellets. If the capsule is split, the medication inside may spill and be impossible to divide evenly.

Extended-release medications
Extended-release, or long-acting medications have coatings or ingredients that control how fast the drug is released from the pill. Splitting these tablets may cause too much of the drug to be released at one time, which may cause dangerous side effects.

Enteric-coated medicines
Enteric-coated pills have a special coating to prevent the release of medication into your stomach. This is designed either to protect your stomach from the drug or to prevent the drug from being destroyed by the acids in your stomach.

Medicines that require an exact dose
Some medications require that you get exactly the same dose each time you take it. Even very small deviations can cause problems. Cutting these pills could result in a dose that is too low to be helpful or a dose that is dangerously high.

Pill-Splitting Tips

  • Talk to your healthcare provider about splitting your prescription medication to find out if it is safe and if a higher dose is available. Your provider will need to write a prescription for the higher dose pill.
  • Do not use a knife or razor blade to split pills. The safest and most reliable way is to use a pill splitter, which can be purchased at your pharmacy. Buy one that has a clear cover and a V-shaped tip that allows for an exact placement of the pill. If you are not sure how to use the pill-splitting device, ask your pharmacist to show you how.
  • Split one pill at a time and take the pieces on consecutive days. This will assure that within a two-day period, you are taking an accurate dose.
  • If you have poor eyesight, tremors, arthritis in your hands, or any form of memory impairment, have a family member or friend help you with pill splitting.

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