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By asking the right questions and reading labels, you can avoid potentially lethal side effects that result in not utilizing prescription medications carefully.

At least 1.5 million people in the U.S. are harmed annually by medication errors, according to a report issued in July 2006 by the Institute of Medicine.   But you can easily reduce your risk of harm by using common sense and asking your doctor or pharmacist the right questions.   Here are a few of the top mistakes to be aware of and how to avoid them.

•  Avoid mixing drugs that interact adversely. Painkillers and supplements can be a problem, because the FDA does not regulate supplements like regular drugs-   so you don't know everything that is in them.   Many antibiotics may reduce the effectiveness of oral contraceptives so you should use backup protection if you are on the pill and need an antibiotic.   Certain prescription drugs mixed with over-the-counter drugs can even create problems.   Inform your doctor and pharmacist of any drugs and supplements you are currently taking and ask about any interactions your prescription may create with these drugs.

•  Getting the wrong prescription from the pharmacy.   Everyone has heard the jokes about doctor's handwriting; but in actuality, your pharmacist may have problems deciphering the prescription and the dosage.   When your doctor is writing your prescription, take an extra moment to ask for the name of the medication, the effectiveness of generic equivalents and the dosage and amount of time you will need to take the medicine.   When you receive the prescription from the pharmacy, doublecheck the label to insure that it is the same prescription and dosage that you discussed with your doctor.

•  Not taking medications as directed.   Often, when people start to feel better, they may stop taking their medications.   If the doctor has instructed you to complete the full round of medications, continue taking them until they are gone.   If you don't, you risk a relapse which could be even more resistant to the next round of medications.   If you have trouble remembering to take your medication,   use boxes labeled with each day of the week or simply put your medicines in a place where you will remember to take them.

It is always advantageous to research your medications and the Internet is a great resource to find information.   To learn about more dangerous drug mistakes and how to avoid them, please check out the following link