Ideas to help make taking medicines easier

taking medicines easier

If you’re caring for someone who finds it difficult to swallow certain medicines, it’s worth it to find out if there are other forms of the medicine that may be easier to take.

For example, certain forms of potassium chloride come as large tablets which are not to be crushed or chewed and may be difficult to swallow; however, this drug is also available in a powder form or effervescent tablets where the medicine is dissolved in water and then ingested.

Some antibiotics also come in other forms including tablet, chewable tablet, capsule, and liquid. If swallowing the medicine is an issue, check with the pharmacist to see if there is a different formulation that could be easier to take by those you care for.

It may also be possible to split or crush the drug to help in creating a smaller size that is easier to swallow. Some drugs, like Focalin, Depakote Sprinkle, Prevacid, and Verelan are examples of drugs which come as capsules, but can be carefully opened and sprinkled on certain foods like pudding or applesauce and then eaten. If this is done, it’s important to note that the person taking the medicine must not chew the food mixture, but rather swallow it whole and then drink water to ensure the entire dose has been swallowed. (Keep portions at a mouthful or less to avoid any potential of choking.)

Because some drugs should not be altered from their original form, it is always best to check with your loved one’s doctor or pharmacist before splitting. In general, the following types of drugs (list not all inclusive) should not be split or crushed:

  • Extended release formulations (“ER” “SR” “XL” “XR” “24 hour” etc.)
  • Delayed release formulations
  • Medicines which are enteric coated
  • Drugs which are designed to dissolve in the mouth/under the tongue (often called “orally disintegrating” or “sublingual”)
  • Drugs which contain more than one active ingredient
  • Drugs which are considered to be a narrow therapeutic product (e.g. levothyroxine, digoxin, etc.)
  • Drugs which crumble into small pieces when handled

Remember, it is always best to check with their personal pharmacist or prescriber before changing the way they take or administer medicines.1

Splitting information from: Tablet Splitting: To Split or Not to Split. Pharmacist’s Letter 2009; 25(5): 250501.