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Is it safe to split my statin cholesterol drug to save money?

Published: March 13, 2014 03:00 PM

Don't split pills in advance. They may deteriorate when exposed to air and moisture.

Yes, but only if your doctor or pharmacist says it’s OK to do so. Several studies suggest that most statins can be split in half without any loss of effectiveness. Keep in mind that some statins should never be split—combination medications such as Liptruzet (atorvastatin/ezetimibe), Advicor (lovastatin/niacin) or Vytorin (simvastatin/ezetimibe) and time-release drugs, such as Altoprev (lovastatin sustained-release tablets), or Lescol XL (fluvastatin sustained-release tablets).

For other statin drugs, such as atorvastatin (Lipitor and generic), rosuvastatin (Crestor) or simvastatin (Zocor and generic) it’s fine to split them. But don’t use a knife—studies show doing so can result in unequal halves. Instead, get a pill splitter device. They cost about $3 to $10 and are widely available at drugstores and pharmacies. A good practice is to split your pills one at a time, and take the second half as your next dose.

If a larger dose of your statin medication costs the same as or less than the smaller dose, ask your doctor to write a prescription for twice the intended dose, and then split the pills in half. See the chart below for the possible savings.

Splitting your statin drug could save you money


Statin and daily dose Average monthly cost1 Monthly savings if larger dose split in half Resulting average monthly cost2
Atorvastatin (generic) 20 mg $100 $47 $53
Atorvastatin (Lipitor) 20 mg $254 $122 $132
Atorvastatin (Lipitor) 40 mg $264 $133 $131
Rosuvastatin (Crestor) 5 mg $205 $104 $101
Simvastatin (generic) 20 mg $71 $37 $34

1. Prices reflect nationwide retail average for January 2014, rounded to nearest dollar.

2. The calculation in this column is based on cost of pill that is twice the strength of pill strength indicated in first column. For example, cost savings for a 20 mg daily dose would be based on cost of 40 mg pill, which would be split in half, compared with cost of 20 mg pill.

—Steve Mitchell

Editor's Note:

This article and related materials are made possible by a grant from the state Attorney General Consumer and Prescriber Education Grant Program, which is funded by the multistate settlement of consumer-fraud claims regarding the marketing of the prescription drug Neurontin (gabapentin).

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