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Actual Versus Expected Doses of Half Tablets Containing Prescribed Psychoactive Substances: A Systematic Review

Jaqueline K. Eserian, MSc; Márcia Lombardo, MSc; Jair R. Chagas, PhD; and José C. F. Galduróz, PhD

Published: February 8, 2018

Article Abstract

Objective: To assess through a systematic review of the literature if the practice of splitting tablets containing psychoactive/psychotropic medications for medical or economic reasons would result in the expected doses.

Data Sources: A MEDLINE and PsycInfo comprehensive search of English-language publications from January 1999 to December 2015 was conducted using the terms describing tablet splitting (tablet splitting, split tablets, tablet subdivision, divided tablets, and half tablets) and psychoactive substances (psychoactive medicines, psychotropic medicines, antidepressants, anxiolytics, anticonvulsants, antipsychotics, and antiparkinsonian agents). An additional supplementary search included the references from the articles found.

Study Selection/Data Extraction: Studies were included if splitting content was directly related to psychoactive medications and examined the effect of tablet splitting on drug uniformity, weight uniformity, and adherence of psychoactive drugs. Articles were systematically reviewed and examined regarding the study design, methodology, and results of the study. A total of 125 articles were screened, and 13 were selected.

Results: Tablet splitting implications are extensive, yet substantial deviations from the ideal weight, potency, and dose uniformity are more prone to be important to patient safety. The uneven division of tablets might result in the administration of different doses than what was prescribed, causing under- or overdosing, which might be relevant depending on the drug. In 55% of the cases, splitting psychoactive drugs was satisfactory.

Conclusions: It cannot be generalized that splitting psychoactive drugs compromises dose accuracy, thus tablet splitting might still be employed in cases in which the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. It is recommended that alternatives be adopted to prevent the disadvantages related to tablet splitting.

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