Cutting drug costs in half... literally

Pharmaceuticals.

TEXT OF STORY

SCOTT JAGOW: Generic drugs are one way employers and insurers can cut the cost of prescriptions. The University of Michigan has come up with another way: cutting pills in half. Researchers found it's good for the company bottom line — and for patients. Helen Palmer reports from our Health Desk at WGBH.


Helen Palmer: You can't split every kind of pill. For example, it won't work with capsules. But it works fine with cholesterol-lowering medications and a trial program in Michigan saved a bundle.

Haemi Choe: The University of Michigan saved almost $200,000 for 2006.

Study author Haemi Choe from the University's School of Pharmacy says patients got lower co-pays as an incentive — typically paying $7 a month instead of $14.

Still, Choe says nearly 90 percent of pill-splitters said they'd continue the program in return for the price break.

But Frank Palumbo of Maryland University warns there are dangers — especially for the elderly who have trouble keeping track of their drugs.

Frank Palumbo: If you add in the necessity of splitting tablets, you're going to really compromise their health, I think.

But drug costs are rising faster than inflation, so Palumbo says it's an idea likely to spread.

In Boston, I'm Helen Palmer for Marketplace.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Altering prescription medication dosage should only be done after consulting with your pharmacist and/or doctor. Some medications will not work properly if the tablet is cut in half. Tablets which are specially-coated or which have a controlled release may be ineffective if broken, cut in half or otherwise compromised.

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