Can You Crush Calcium Tablets?

In our latest question and answer, the pharmacist discusses whether or not calcium tablets can be crushed.

Question

Hi, I am having surgery next week on my esophagus/stomach and I am not supposed to take pills larger than a peanut. I am currently prescribed by my doctor to take Nature's Bounty Calcium 600 with Vitamin D3 pills. Can I crush the pill and then take it with water?

Asked by Zach On Oct 18, 2022

Answered by
Medical Content Reviewed By HelloPharmacist Staff

Published Oct 19, 2022
Last updated Oct 19, 2022

Key points

  • Most over-the-counter calcium tablets can safely be split or crushed.
  • Be sure to look out for certain calcium tablets that shouldn't be crushed, such as tablets that are 'coated' or have a modified-release mechanism.
  • Calcium supplements are available in several different dosage forms and are an alternative option to crushing tablets. These alternative dosage forms include calcium liquids, chewable tablets, and candy chews.

Answer

Whether or not you can crush calcium tablets depends very much on the specific product in question. The majority of calcium tablets can safely be crushed or split, but there are several that are 'time-release' or 'slow-release' that should not be.

I give some examples in the sections below about what to look for when considering if a particular calcium product can be crushed.

Calcium Is Available In Multiple Forms

Calcium is a very popular over-the-counter supplement and an important mineral in our diets. As a dietary supplement, it is available in several different forms, including:

  • Calcium Carbonate
  • Calcium Citrate
  • Oyster shell calcium
  • Coral calcium

In addition to these different types of calcium, they are all generally available in different dosage forms, such as:

  • Tablets
  • Capsules
  • Liquid
  • Chewable tablets
  • Powder

Crushing Calcium Tablets: Things To Consider

As mentioned, most calcium tablets can safely be cut/or split. There is nothing inherent about calcium where crushing it would reduce its effectiveness or absorption. Tums, for example, the popular antacid, is a chewable form of calcium carbonate.

Now, there are a few things you want to look out for:

  • Is the tablet a 'slow-release' dosage form?
  • Is the tablet scored?
  • Is the tablet coated?

First and foremost, you do not want to split or crush any modified-release form of calcium.

Look for markings like 'extended-release', 'modified-release' or 'slow-release'. These tablets are formulated in a way where calcium is delivered slowly over time (which can help reduce stomach nausea). Splitting or crushing these can ruin the slow-release mechanism.

A good example of a calcium tablet that should not be crushed is Citracal Slow-Release:

Citracal Slow Release

Again, crushing or splitting these tablets would destroy the slow-release mechanism.

You also want to look out for tablets that are 'coated'. These tablets have a wax coating that makes them easier to swallow. Crushing these tablets will destroy this coating.

Most calcium tablets that are not modified-release have a 'score' mark down the middle of the tablet. When it comes to calcium supplements, a score mark on a tablet is a good indication that it can safely be split or crushed (this doesn't apply to all drugs, just calcium).

Here is an example of a calcium supplement tablet (Nature Made Calcium) with a score mark that would be considered safe to crush:

Nature Made Calcium Tablet With Score Mark

Not every calcium tablet that is crushable has a score mark on it, but as I've talked about here, as long as your calcium product is not 'coated' and does not have any kind of modified-release mechanism, it is safe to crush.

You mentioned Nature's Bounty Calcium 600 with Vitamin D3 pills specifically in your question. These tablets are scored and are safe to crush.

Alternatives To Crushing Calcium

Even though you can crush most calcium tablets, you have many other options that may be less cumbersome than crushing every dose you need to take.

Calcium is available in many different dosage forms that are easy to take. You can find it as a liquid, gummy and chewable tablet for example.

Several calcium products are also available in a 'chew' form, like Viactiv caramel chews, which generally taste better than the other calcium products.

Final Words

If you are even unsure whether or not a drug or supplement like calcium can be crushed (since I mentioned it is very product specific), be sure to reach out to us again, or talk to your pharmacist for advice.

Thanks so much for reaching out to us!

References

  • Calcium Citrate Monograph, PubChem
  • Calcium Carbonate Monograph, PubChem

About the Pharmacist

Dr. Brian Staiger, PharmD

Dr. Brian has been practicing pharmacy for over 13 years and has wide-ranging experiences in many different areas of the profession. From retail, clinical, program development, and administrative responsibilities, he's your knowledgeable and go-to source for all your pharmacy and medication-related questions! Dr. Brian Staiger also has herbalist training and educational certificates in the field of medical ethnobotany. Feel free to send him an email at Hello@HelloPharmacist.com! You can also connect with Dr. Brian Staiger on LinkedIn.

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