HEALTH MATTERS: Your health questions answeredIn this column, Health Matters will explore several questions that arise frequently about medications.
By: Joshua Wynne, Grand Forks Herald
In this column, Health Matters will explore several questions that arise frequently about medications.
Q. Is it OK to cut my pill in half?
A. This is a common question which often arises when the dose of a medication is changed, or to save money on the cost of the medication (as a larger dose may not cost much more than the smaller pill).
Many medications can safely be cut in half, especially those that have a line across the pill (they are “scored”). If you do want to cut your pills, be sure to use a pill cutter, available in most pharmacies at low cost. There are some provisions about pill-cutting, however. Never cut a capsule, an enteric-coated pill or most time-release pills because the release of the medication into your body may be unpredictable if these medications are cut.
If you have any questions about the safety of pill cutting, your pharmacist and health care provider are good sources of information.
Q. My pharmacy dispensed a generic form of my medication. Are generics as safe and effective as brand name drugs?
A. In most cases, generic (that is, non-brand name drugs) are just as safe and effective as the more-costly brand name drugs, and you should have no hesitation in using them. However, newer drugs are usually protected from imitations by copyright laws and there may be no generic drug available for certain medications. In addition, in a few cases, I will insist on the brand-name drug because of specific manufacturing characteristics and predictability of the drug dose in the medication. But in most cases, a generic substitution is just fine and the medication is both safe and effective.
Q. My insurance company wants me to switch from the medication my doctor prescribed to a similar one that costs less. Should I be concerned about the switch?
A. In most cases, you should not be concerned about this switch. It is most common when there are several different medications that affect the body’s chemistry in the same way; they are said to belong to the same class of medications. One of the most common classes of medication is called a beta blocker, and there are many different types of beta blockers available.
Examples include metoprolol, also called Lopressor or Toprol; carvedilol, also called Coreg; and atenolol, also called Tenormin. These medications generally are interchangeable, but not always. In certain situations, one drug may be preferred over another.
For example, patients with heart failure generally should be on a beta blocker which usually consists of carvedilol or a long-acting form of metoprolol; atenolol generally is not used in this setting. The bottom line is that you should not be passive about these matters and should ask your pharmacist or health care provider or both. In most cases the switch is quite appropriate, but there are situations where it may be ill-advised. Don’t be shy — ask.
Wynne is vice president for health affairs at UND, dean of the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, and a professor of medicine. He is a cardiologist by training.
Submit a question to Health Matters at firstname.lastname@example.org or Health Matters, 501 N. Columbia Rd, Stop 9037, Grand Forks, ND 58202-9037. Remember, no personal details please.
The content of this column is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for professional medical advice or care. The information provided herein should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, you should consult your health care provider. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this column.