Split the difference: Pill-splitting study looks at cost-saving step that could be used by millions

ANN ARBOR, Mich. Slicing certain pills in half could slice a hefty amount off of Americas prescription drug costs. While only some types of pills can be split safely, the practice could be used by millions of Americans including many of those who take popular cholesterol-lowering drugs.

Now, a new University of Michigan study adds more evidence that splitting a high-dose pill and swallowing half of it, rather than taking a whole low-dose pill each time, doesnt change those medicines impact on cholesterol levels. It is also the first prospective randomized controlled trial of pill-splitting, and the first to look at the impact of out-of-pocket costs on patients willingness to take the time to split pills.

The study is published in the June issue of the American Journal of Managed Care by a team from the U-M Health System and the U-M College of Pharmacy.

This study was done in part to see what the impact would be of having some of the cost savings go back to the patient, says first author Hae Mi Choe, PharmD, CDE, clinical assistant professor in the College and a UMHS clinical pharmacist.

While the study did not find that out-of-pocket costs had an impact on the participants tendency to split and take their pills in the six-month study, most participants said that reduced co-pays would be needed to entice them to continue splitting pills.

The findings have already had an impact on one large employers prescription drug plan: U-M used them to justify a pill-splitting program that launched in early 2006. In its first full year, the program saved the University $195,000, and saved more than 500 employees and retirees a total of more than $25,000 in drug co-pay costs.

Pill-splitting relies on the fact that many medicines are manufactured in tablet formulations that contain different doses of the active ingredient. Some of the higher-dose tablets can be cut in half with a blade to produce two lower-dose ta

Contact: Kara Gavin
University of Michigan Health System

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