Tablet-splitting: a common yet not so innocent practice

J Adv Nurs. 2011 Jan;67(1):26-32. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.2010.05477.x.


Aim: This paper is a report of a study conducted to quantify (i) the mean deviation from theoretical weight and (ii) the mean weight loss, after tablet-splitting with three different, commonly used splitting methods.

Background: Tablet-splitting is a widespread practice among all sectors of health care for different reasons: it increases dose flexibility, makes tablet parts easier to swallow and allows cost savings for both patients and healthcare providers. However, the tablet parts obtained are often not equal in size, and a substantial amount of tablet can be lost during splitting.

Method: Five volunteers were asked to mimic the situation in nursing homes and to split eight tablets of different sizes and shapes using three different routine methods: (i) with a splitting device (Pilomat® ), (ii) with scissors for unscored tablets or manual splitting for scored tablets and (iii) with a kitchen knife. Before and after splitting, tablets and tablet parts were weighed using an analytical balance. The data were collected in 2007.

Results: For all tablets, method 1 gave a statistically significantly lower mean deviation from theoretical weight. The difference between method 2 and method 3 was not statistically significant. When pooling the different products, method 1 also induced significantly less weight loss than the two other methods.

Conclusion: Large dose deviations or weight losses can occur while splitting tablets. This could have serious clinical consequences for medications with a narrow therapeutic-toxic range. On the basis of the results in this report, we recommend use of a splitting device when splitting cannot be avoided.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Compounding / instrumentation
  • Drug Compounding / methods*
  • Drug Compounding / nursing
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medication Errors / prevention & control*
  • Middle Aged
  • Nursing Homes
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Tablets / administration & dosage*
  • Tablets / chemistry
  • Young Adult


  • Tablets