Medication Safety

How To Use A Pill Cutter Safely

What is a Pill Cutter?

Pills cutters also known as pill splitter, are mostly manually operated devices that cut pills into desired size or shapes. According to the FDA, the device is intended to only be used with medications that are labeled as acceptable for crushing or cutting. Many people find it difficult to take the medicines whole hence, the need to break it into halves or maybe quarters to make consumption choke-free. Sometime times, the dose is such that it is mandatory to split the pills to get the required dosage.

However, cutting the pills to sizes can sometimes be a daunting task especially if you are to do it manually by using your hands, scissors, or knives. pill splitters makes the task more simpler and safer. No more wastage of time; all you have to do is get a handy pill cutter that will sort your life like never before.

Today, there are new pill cutter designs that solves many of the issues with traditional, plastic, single-blade tablet cutters; and it works with just about every size and shape tablet. These new designs utilizes two opposing blades that come in from the sides to effectively score the pill prior to cutting.

What steps should I take before splitting my pills?

Step 1: Check if your pills have a scored mark. A pill that has been approved by the FDA for splitting will have a scored mark down the center to indicate the best place to cut the pill. For further assurance, check the “How Supplied” section of the label insert on your medication bottle for written FDA approval. The printed label or patient package insert should also give you this information.

FDA approval ensures that the two halves of the pill will supply you with a relatively equal amount of medication.

Step 2: Avoid cutting pills that are delayed-release, long-lasting, or contain a mixture of active ingredients. If your pills have any of these features or have a coating on the outside to protect your stomach, they are typically not safe to split. Always avoid splitting chemotherapy drugs and blood thinners.

If your pills crumble easily, do not attempt to cut them, as you risk altering the number of active ingredients in each dose. If you have a pill that crumbled that isn’t a crucial medication, mix the pieces with applesauce or jam and eat half of the contents.

Step 3: Ask your doctor or pharmacist if your pills are safe to split. Talk with your healthcare practitioner about the type of medication you’re using and what the best practice is for cutting your pills. Sometimes, doctors can prescribe a tablet with twice the dose that you need to cut your prescription costs in half.

Follow the prescribed dose carefully. If you get pills that are double the dose that you’ve been prescribed, be sure to split each one in half before you take it. It can be easy to forget how much to take when you’re working with half doses, so be sure to only take the amount that’s been prescribed to you.

It can help to keep your pill splitter right next to your medication as a visual reminder to cut your pills before you use them.

Consider putting a sticky note or label on your medication bottle to remind yourself to cut the pills in half.

Step 4: This step involves picking out the Right Pill Splitter. Choose a standard pill splitter if you’re looking for an affordable option. Most splitters will be made from plastic, and the inside will have a blade on top and two pieces of plastic that stick up to form a triangular shape where the pill goes. The typical model can be found at most drugstores and is cheap and easy to use. Try to look for a splitter that has rubber-coated plastic inside to hold the pill in place as you cut.

Keep the pill cutter away from small children since they could accidentally cut themselves on the blade.

Pick a universal or multi-shape pill splitter for large or unusually shaped pills. Many of these splitters come with either a moveable circular compartment with different sized openings for pills or interchangeable parts with different sized holes. This is a good option if you need to cut different types of pills on a regular basis.

Buy a multi-purpose pill splitter and crusher for versatile use. If some of your medication needs to be cut and other pills need to be crushed, consider buying a combination splitter that does both. These splitters usually have a lid with a blade on the top, and a separate area to grind up pills on the bottom.

It’s important to note that pill splitters have sharp blades inside, so you may not be able to take them in a carry-on when you travel. If you decide to take a trip, either pack your splitter in your luggage or cut your pills in advance. Store any cut pills back in your regular medicine bottle.

How to Safely Use Pill Cutter

Place one pill inside the grooved edges of the pill splitter. In pill splitters where the two plastic pieces create a triangle that opens facing away from you, place the pill between the two pieces and then press the plastic forward towards the blade. In other splitters where the pieces open out towards you, simply place the pill between the two pieces so that it is touching each side.

Try to line the pill up so that the center of the pill is in line with the center of the splitter. This will help ensure that the blade cuts the pill exactly in half.

For multi-shape pill splitters, find the hole that best fits the shape of your pill, and place it inside the splitter.

If you’re using a pill splitter that is specifically meant to cut multiple pills at once, you can load in as many as you need and cut them all at once rather than cutting one at a time.

Press down firmly on the pill splitter until the lid is completely closed. Try to keep the splitter still as you push the lid down to make sure the pill doesn’t move around before you cut it. Make sure you close the lid completely so that the blade cuts through the entire pill.

Most splitters will have a compartment to catch the two pill pieces after they’ve been cut. Jiggle the splitter a little before you open it to make sure the pills land in this compartment.

Be careful to avoid the blade when you open up the splitter to collect your medication.

If you want to split a large pill into fourths, simply line up the half pill that you just cut as best you can and repeat the same process.

Remove the half pill from the splitter and take according to your doctor’s instructions. Store the other half in your regular medicine bottle. Take the second half of the pill for your next dose rather than splitting a new one.

Try to split the pill just before you’re ready to take it.

Can you cut a pill that is not scored?

Yes, many pills that can be safely split have a “score”, a line down the middle of the pill that allows for easier splitting. However, be aware that not all tablets that are scored are safe to split in half, so ask your pharmacist first. On the other hand, some tablets that are not scored can be safely cut in half.


Dr. Oche Otorkpa PG Cert, MPH, PhD

Dr. Oche is a seasoned Public Health specialist who holds a post graduate certificate in Pharmacology and Therapeutics, an MPH, and a PhD both from Texila American University. He is a member of the International Society of Substance Use Professionals and a Fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health in the UK. He authored two books: "The Unseen Terrorist," published by AuthorHouse UK, and "The Night Before I Killed Addiction."
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