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To split or not to split ... your pills

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Photo: apomares/iStockphoto

Your doctor tells you she’s going to cut your medication dosage in half, but you’ve just picked up a new bottle of the old dosage at the pharmacy. Instead of wasting it, you decide you’ll halve the pills. No harm, right?

There might be. “Splitting a pill can be dangerous,” pharmacist Alison Miller says on the Cleveland Clinic’s website. “Ask before you make a cut and take safety steps to do it properly.”

Pills that you should never split include extended-release pills, liquid or bead-filled capsules, asymmetrical pills, and tiny tablets.

According to Miller, if pills have a split line, it’s usually OK to break them in half. “This mark, or notch, offers assistance to make a clean cut,” she adds. “But don’t assume it’s safe to split any pill with a score mark.”

Check with your doctor first. If you get the go-ahead:

  • Use a specialized pill cutter, and make sure it’s clean.
  • Wear gloves or wash your hands before splitting to avoid a negative reaction.
  • Cut pills one at a time.
  • Always check to make sure it’s safe to split the pill, even if you’ve done it before. Some pills undergo manufacturing changes.

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