Patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease and other conditions are at risk of overdosing on their medication if they split their tablets, researchers have warned.
Researchers from Ghent University in Belgium found that 31% of tablets that were split deviated from the recommended dose by at least 15% and sometimes more than 25%.
They concluded that the practice of splitting tablets could have “serious consequences”, especially where there is a narrow margin between a therapeutic and a toxic dose.
They warned that “the tablet parts obtained are often not equal in size and a substantial amount of tablet can be lost during splitting”.
Drugs prescribed for health problems including congestive heart failure, thrombosis and arthritis were split during the study by hand or using a tablet-splitting device, a knife or scissors.
Writing in the Journal of Advanced Nursing, the authors warned that people should not split tablets themselves but also issued a warning to staff in nursing homes, where tablet-splitting is “daily practice”.
They said: “Our observations in nursing homes have shown that nurses split 15% of the medications they prepare.”
Another study in Germany found around a quarter of drugs were split, with reasons including making tablets easier to swallow, cutting costs and allowing doses to be spread over a time period.
The authors of the latest research have called on pharmaceutical companies to produce a range of options to prevent tablet-splitting, including smaller or bigger dose tablets and liquid alternatives.