If you're reading this, it's more likely than not that you regularly take a prescribed medication—more than half of all Americans do, according to CR's latest research. The average American takes four prescriptions plus a helping of over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, and supplements. The result: Americans take more pills today than at any other time in recent history, and far more than in any other country.

While advancements in medicine have made many of these drugs critical to our health, the parallel rise of questionable supplements, unnecessary prescriptions, and dangerous drug interactions has created a perfect storm of preventable harms. Almost 1.3 million people went to U.S. emergency rooms because of adverse drugs effects in 2014, and about 124,000 people died as a result, according to estimates based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration.

In addition to illness and loss of life, the problem also imposes an enormous financial burden on our healthcare system.

To ensure that you're being helped and not harmed by your drug regimen, our CR Best Buy Drugs and Choosing Wisely programs generate advice you can use to make better-informed decisions. In our special report, "Too Many Meds? America's Love Affair With Prescription Medication," we spotlight the questions to ask your provider about whether a prescription is truly necessary, offer guidance about how common ingredients interact with one another, and provide insight on treatments and lifestyle changes that can sometimes effectively supplant prescribed medications. At CR, we're dedicated to bringing you independent knowledge you can trust so that you feel empowered to protect your well-being.

Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the September 2017 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.