Cancer Survivor Makes Jewelry Out of Pills to Pay Off Medical Debt

Apr 13, 2011 8 comments

61-year-old Susan Braig from Altadena is a cancer survivor who takes old pharmaceutical pills and tablets and mounts them on costume jewelry to create colorful necklaces, pendants, earrings and tiaras. She then sells them to help pay off her medical debt.

Susan Braig was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004. “I bought my first round of medicine and it cost $500 out of my own pocket," she said. "I looked at the drugstore receipt and then at the little pills and wondered if they were precious gems."


But the idea for pill jewelry didn’t came until 2007 when Braig participated in a medical-themed art exhibition and performance event organized by the NewTown Pasadena Foundation. She decided to create a mock Tiffany & Co. jewelry advertisement for the exhibition with different medications in place of diamonds, rubies and emeralds, but ended up constructing an actual princess' tiara encrusted with her leftover cancer meds, along with several other pieces. The show-goers' response prompted Braig to launch the line she now calls Designer Drug Jewelry.

Seven years after beginning treatment, Braig is now cancer-free, but she is still has unpaid medical bills. Braig’s drug jewelry that she creates from her expensive unused cancer-fighting pills and those donated by her friends helps to finance her. Her unique artwork sells from $15 to $150, and one of her most popular pieces is a pendant that features a Viagra pill in the middle.






[via LATimes, Flickr]


  1. Isn't that a little like selling illegal drugs? It's a great story, and I think she's a genius, but it's almost as if I would sell marijuana buds hanging from a necklace! =)

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  3. An unusual post where the courage of the lady has to be encouraged. Truly a very innovative idea of earning money and settling the bills. Great put up thanks.
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  4. I have one of her earring pills

  5. I taught myself to make jewelry with either beads, gems and metals, or from scratch with polymer clay. It took me about 2 years to "master" as I still work. I can see from her pieces that she already was making jewelry before, just not with pills, as her pieces really only contain pills as "focals" as we call them.

  6. I should add that very obviously - and I'm surprised no one noticed - she is no longer selling HER own pills, especially that Viagra is for men! I can only guess that her pills are now EXPIRED meds donated by either people or pharmaceuticals...

  7. Just finished reading the article and yes, she did get pills from her friends. However, with the liability issue in Calif, I'd be surprised if she still does today. Only pharmaceuticals guaranteeing they're useless as meds can clear the liability issues.


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