Splitting tablets a potentially dangerous practice: Study

January 6th, 2011 - 6:26 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Jan 6 (ANI): Belgium researchers have warned that splitting pills is a potentially dangerous practice.

Their study points out that the practice could have ’serious consequences’ for patients, especially with tablets that have a narrow margin between therapeutic and toxic doses.

Researchers from Ghent University asked five volunteers to split eight different-sized tablets using three techniques commonly used in nursing homes.

The participants split tablets into 3,600 separate quarters or halves using a splitting device, scissors and a kitchen knife. The eight different tablets were different shapes and sizes.

They found that 31 percent of the tablet fragments deviated from their theoretical weight by at least 15 percent, while 14 percent of the fragments deviated by more than 25 percent. Even the most accurate method produced error margins of up to 21 percent.

“Tablet-splitting is widespread in all healthcare sectors and a primary care study in Germany found that just under a quarter of all drugs were split,” said lead researcher Dr. Charlotte Verrue.

“It is done for a number of reasons: To increase dose flexibility, to make tablets easier to swallow and to save money for both patients and healthcare providers. However, the split tablets are often unequal sizes and a substantial amount of the tablet can be lost during splitting,” she added.

The study involved drugs prescribed for Parkinson’s disease, congestive heart failure, thrombosis and arthritis, among others.

The study is calling on pharmaceutical manufacturers to offer different dose options and liquid alternatives for patients to avoid tablet splitting.

The study also said people who are put in charge of splitting tablets should be given proper training on how to split it as accurately as possible.

The study is published in the January issue of the Journal of Advanced Nursing. (ANI)

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