Millions of Americans take prescription drugs, but many aren't taking them properly and don't even know it.  A new study from the National Institute of Medicine says more than 1.5 million potentially dangerous mistakes happen with the use of prescription drugs every year.  Those include doctors mistakenly prescribing the wrong medicine, and users improperly mixing medications or not following proper instructions for dosage or use.  KTRH's medical expert Dr. Joe Galati from the Liver Specialists of Texas notes another common medicine mistake---breaking up or crushing down pills before taking them.  "A lot of long-acting, once-a-day medications are meant to stay in the body as is, and once you start breaking them up the effect of the medicine really just goes away."

Dr. Galati calls the study a wake-up call to medicine consumers.  "We're experts on how our cell phone works, how the computer works, how the car works---but how the medicine works is often taken for granted and many times it can have bad effects," he says.  Above all, Dr. Galati recommends talking to your doctor to make sure you're being prescribed the proper medicine.  Once that happens, it's up to you to perform due diligence.  "Read the instructions to make sure there's not some sort of drug-drug interaction, and follow the directions to make sure that the drug works exactly as it's supposed to," he says.  Other tips are to make sure drugs are stored properly in a cool, dry place and to throw away expired medications, which are often ineffective and sometimes dangerous.

Other problems with prescription drugs can arise when users don't realize adverse reactions medicines can have with certain foods or over-the-counter drugs.  The bottom line, according to Dr. Galati, is that most medicine mistakes can be prevented simply by using a little extra effort.  "The key thing for consumers out there is to read the label and pay attention to what you are taking."

Listen to Your Health First with Dr. Joe Galati Sundays at 7 p.m. on Newsradio 740 KTRH