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Know how to pack medicines for trip

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Have you planned your summer vacation yet? If you are looking to get away from civilization, you might want to consider how to pack the medicines you might need.

A decade or so ago, we asked some leading physicians what three medicines they would take with them to a desert island to treat conditions within their specialties. Their answers may interest you.

You probably won’t need to pack all these medications for your getaway (especially if you’re not really going to be isolated on an island or a mountain trail). However, you do want to be prepared for problems that seem possible or likely.

Dr. Robert Califf, a cardiologist and former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, offered these recommendations: For a pleasant island, he’d take aspirin for heart attack prevention and pain relief, a statin to control cholesterol and an ACE inhibitor for blood pressure control. If the island were inhospitable, Dr. Califf would add a steroid to counter inflammation and allergies.

Dr. Dean Edell was then a renowned media doctor. If he had to play Robinson Crusoe, he would take codeine, because it has so many uses: relieving pain, controlling diarrhea and easing coughs.

Dermatologist Stephen Feldman would want a topical anti-inflammatory drug (such as a corticosteroid) and an antibiotic such as dicloxacillin.

Harvard neurologist Daniel Hoch would choose gabapentin for his emergency medical kit. That’s because he treats people with epilepsy. He states: “It’s not a bad anticonvulsant, and I’ve used it with some benefit in post-concussive syndrome, chronic pain and migraine. All that, and it’s even indicated for painful neuropathy.”

Dr. Joanne Jordan treats people with arthritis. She would bring along NSAIDs (pills and topical) for pain and inflammation, a capsaicin cream or lotion for sore joints and glucosamine with chondroitin.

Dr. Steven Nissen is chairman of the Department of Cardiovascular Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic. If he had to treat people on a desert island, Dr. Nissen would want a statin to counteract the effect of palm oil and coconut milk. He also would bring along a defibrillator with a solar charger to rescue people from cardiac arrest. In addition, Dr. Nissen would want a blood pressure cuff and a supply of the diuretic hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ) for treating hypertension.

Another dermatologist, Stanley Levy, added sunscreen containing zinc oxide and insect repellent containing DEET to the list of desert island essentials. His topical corticosteroid of choice would be clobetasol propionate (Temovate) cream (0.05 percent).

Dr. Danny Sands is an internist and advocate for participatory medicine. His recommendations include water purification tablets, aspirin for pain relief and heart attack prevention and loperamide to treat diarrhea.

We also asked Harvard epidemiologist Walter Willett what he would bring: “This island trip sounds like fun. As the island epidemiologist, my task will be to monitor the health and disease status of the population and to investigate disease outbreaks.

“Assuming there is no electricity, my first need is a pencil and notebook. My second need is a solar-powered hand calculator. Prevention is also a high priority for a public health person, so my third need is a shovel to dig latrines. Number four is soap for hand washing.”

We hope you don’t get stranded this summer, but these recommendations might give you some ideas about what to pack on your next big adventure.

Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist. Teresa Graedon holds a doctorate in medical anthropology and is a nutrition expert. In their column, the Graedons answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, FL 32803, or email them via their website:

2018 King Features Syndicate