Buying bigger pills and cutting them in half with a pill splitter can save hundreds or thousands of dollars per year.
Using a pill splitter is a deceptively simple way to save money on drugs, but few consumers or even doctors are aware that it's an option. Many drugs cost about the same per pill, regardless of the dosage. As a result, patients who buy a larger pill that contains twice the dose they need can cut it in half with a pill splitter and save as much as 50 percent.
For example, one trademarked drug costs about $3.94 a pill, whether the dose is for 20 milligrams or 40 milligrams. A person who needs a 20-milligram daily dose can use a pill splitter to cut a 40-milligram pill in half, dropping the cost to just $1.97, saving more than $700 annually.
A 75-milligram daily dose of the trademarked drug would pay $6.66 to take three 25-milligram pills. But by using a pill cutter to cut a combination of 100-milligram and 50-milligram pills to achieve a 75-milligram dose lowers the cost to just $2.53, a savings of 62 percent, or more than $1,500 annually. Given that many older, uninsured patients have several prescriptions, the annual savings from using a pill splitter can add up to thousands of dollars.
More and more doctors are counseling patients to use a pill cutter.
Some pills, such as capsules or extended-release tablets, can't be cut with a pill cutter. Always consult a doctor or pharmacist before using a pill cutter. Only a doctor can prescribe a larger-dose pill, so patients must discuss using a pill cutter with a physician. To split pills evenly and safely, a person should use a pill cutter, rather than a knife.
Many drugs are flat priced, meaning they cost the same whether the dose is 50 milligrams or 100 milligrams. The result is a pricing loophole that gives patients a chance to dramatically cut their drug costs by using a pill cutter.
The way pharmaceutical firms manufacture and price their drugs that makes using a pill cutter possible. Many pills are "scored"; manufactured with an indented line down the middle — for the sole purpose of allowing them to be cut in half with a pill cutter.
Not every drug is flat-priced; some drugs do cost more in a larger dose. But even then, patients usually can save money by using a pill cutter. For example, the trademarked drug Vioxx costs $2.38 for a 25-milligram dose and $3.44 for a 50-milligram dose. Using a pill cutter to split the larger pill saves 28 percent, or about $240 a year.