Study Shows Pill Splitting May Put Nursing Home Residents at Risk

Splitting pills, which is commonly done by patients and health care workers to save money or make medications easier to swallow,  is potentially dangerous, a new study suggests. Belgian researchers found that nearly one-third of split pill fragments deviated from recommended dosages by at least 15%. In the study, five volunteers divided eight tablets of various sizes using three tools: a kitchen knife, scissors and a pill-splitting device. Another 14% of split tablets differed from recommended dosages by 25% or more, according to the study.

"In most of the cases and especially in nursing homes, medications are taken as chronic therapies. Very often, it doesn't matter clinically if the patient takes a little more drug one day and a little less the next," said study author Charlotte Verrue, an assistant academic staff member at Ghent University in Belgium. "However," she added, "it might have consequences when the deviations are bigger (25 percent and more) and when. .. a small deviation in dosage can have an important difference in effect. Just to be safe, we advise to be careful with this splitting practice. It is not as innocent as it might seem."

Researchers said even minute dosage deviations of certain medications can cause critical problems, including drugs for irregular heartbeat, blood clots and seizures. The leaders of the study have called on pharmaceutical companies to produce more dose options and liquid alternatives so pill-splitting would be less necessary. But they also acknowledged that such a move could hurt profits of the pharmaceutical companies. For more, read the story.


Robert W. Carter, Jr. is a Virginia attorney whose law practice is dedicated to protecting the rights of the victims of nursing home and assisted living neglect and abuse in Richmond, Roanoke, Norfolk, Lynchburg, Danville, Charlottesville, and across Virginia.

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