When pills lead to more pills

Alan Wu

June 1, 2011

It all started in 1993, when Alesandra Rain started having anxiety problems and a doctor prescribed her sleeping pills to help solve the condition, according to CNN

"It worked fabulously. I felt very relaxed and I would sleep better," Rain told CNN. "I thought this was certainly the right prescription for me."

But, around a week later, Rain developed bronchitis and had to start taking antibiotics. She started having an abnormal heart beat, so she went to a cardiologist – who gave her more pills. Afterward, she suffered from seizures that required more medications.

None of the specialists she visited could figure out the real health issue, but some experts suspected that it lay behind the fact that Rain was taking 12 different types of pills. The side effects multiplied and often interacted negatively with other medications.

Many older Americans are caught in a similar spiral, because multiple health conditions require different treatments. In this case, patients may want to consider installing a medical alert system, because this device can remind users when it's time to take doses with programmed medical alarms.

The average mature American takes two over-the-counter medications and up to five prescription pills every day, according to The Wisconsin Rapids Tribune.