“Same bottle. Same medication. Same pharmacy. So why does one bottle cost 50% less?” This was the ad copy printed above a photo of two orange prescription pill bottles on a glossy mailer I found in my mailbox. It was sent to me by my insurer, United Healthcare. Inside the mailer is a description of United Healthcare’s inane Half Tablet Program:
1. Your doctor writes a new prescription for twice the strength and half the quantity, noting your intent to split the tablets on your prescription.
2. Fill the prescription, automatically paying only half your usual co-payment.
3. Split each tablet and take half—you get your usual supply for half the cost.
Excuse me, but was the legal department on vacation the month United Healthcare created this program? Is their goal to increase the risk of improper dosing?
The Half Tablet Program is clearly not about helping patients, but rather about cost savings for United Healthcare. (Remember, this program gives them a smaller tab to pick up too.) Can I fault them for wanting to save on the exorbitant costs of prescription drugs? No. But certainly they can find saner and safer ways to coerce savings than asking patients to chop our meds in half.
Let’s eliminate half of the Barbie Doll drug reps trolling through doctors’ offices carting cases of samples. Let’s slash pharma CEOs’ pay in half. There are all kinds of solutions to reduce the cost of medication. Putting my health at risk by whacking my prescription pills in half is not one of them. Did I mention that if you act now United Healthcare will send you a free plastic pill splitter? Enticing. But I still think I’ll pass.