The practice of splitting both over-the-counter and prescription pills happens frequently and often with physicians approval. The practice allows an increase in dose flexibility, it often makes them easier to swallow, decreases costs for both patients and healthcare providers, and allows physicians to prescribe a lower dose than may be available by prescription.
But a new study by the Journal of Advanced Nursing shows that pill splitting can be dangerous, especially when precise dosage is necessary. The report says that “the tablet parts obtained are often not in equal size, and a substantial amount of tablet can be lost during splitting.” Three methods used to split the pills: using a splitting device made specifically for splitting medication tablets, using kitchen shears, and a kitchen knife. Before and after splitting, tablets and the pieces of the tablets were weighed, using an analytical balance. Some of the tablets were scored, some were not.
The Las Angeles Times reported that in this test, while using the cutting device was simplest, it still produced a 15% to 25% error in 13% of the cases, and more than 25% in 8% of the cases, compared to 19% for the scissors and 17% for the knife.
While acknowledging that tablet splitting is widespread in all healthcare sectors, the authors of the Journal of Advanced Nursing report also said that they would “like to see manufacturers introduce a wider range of tablet doses or liquid formulations so that tablet splitting becomes increasingly unnecessary.”