Splitting pills to save bills

Special to The Times

Many doctors today double the dose of the pills they prescribe so that patients can split them in half. This allows us some relief from the prices we are charged. But how does this affect the medicine? If I split a 20-milligram pill, does it only work half as long?

Splitting pills should not affect the length of time they last in the body. Whether a doctor prescribes a 5-milligram Valium or a 10-milligram pill that gets split in half, the outcome should be the same.

This does not hold true, however, for medications that are long-acting or extended-release. The special formulation of those pills makes them inappropriate for splitting. Be sure to check with your doctor and pharmacist to make sure pill splitting is a safe way to save money.

I am feeling so nervous these days. I have a hard time concentrating. My doctor prescribed alprazolam, but it doesn't help that much. My neighbor says the herb kava is a natural way to calm nerves. Can I take it along with alprazolam?

No! Kava might increase the tranquillizing effects of alprazolam (Xanax) and could make you extremely sedated. In addition, kava has been associated with liver toxicity.

Is 800 micrograms of folic acid too much to take daily? Is it true that if you take this you also need vitamin B-12?

It is not dangerous to take 800 micrograms of folic acid, but if you do, your doctor might not detect a vitamin B-12 deficiency. These crucial nutrients need to be in balance.


Joe Graedon, a pharmacologist, and Teresa Graedon, an expert in medical anthropology and nutrition, can be reached at People's Pharmacy, King Features Syndicate, 888 7th Ave., New York, NY 10019, or at pharmacy@mindspring.com.

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