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Desert Island Drugs

Dr David Turner 

Have you ever thought that there should be a medical version of Desert Island Discs, called Desert Island Drugs?

Each week, a doctor would be grilled on their choice of medications, and instead of playing a favourite music track, there would be a reading from the BNF about the indications and side-effects of the chosen treatment.

In the current climate of drug shortages and the fact that the problem is likely to get worse if we leave the EU, there has never been a better time to play this game.

Here are my top ten pills and potions:

1) Morphine. Could any other single drug claim to have reliably and consistently relieved so much human pain and suffering for so many hundreds of years?

2) Paracetamol. Yes, another painkiller, but most of the time you won’t want to be spaced out with morphine while struggling to survive on your desert island. Like in real life, most aches and pains will be minor and short-lived, and paracetamol will suffice.

3) Co-amoxiclav. Hated by prescribing advisers and microbiologists alike, antibiotic resistance will be the least of your worries living alone on a remote Pacific island. So if you do get an infection, you’ll want the good stuff straightaway.

4) Antimalarials. A dose of malaria will do for you pretty quickly, malnourished in a remote location, so the malaria prophylaxis of your choice would be high up on my list.

You’d have no use for these on a desert island, and, come the apocalypse, nor will any of us

5) Fexofenadine. Again, a foe of the pharmacy advisers because of its cost, in my experience it works better than the others. Insect bites are inevitable tramping through tropical undergrowth in search of food and fresh water, so it’s a handy symptom-reliever for the bites.

6) Ondansetron. A dose of D and V from eating the wrong berry could dehydrate and kill you quickly in a remote location. From my recent experience, this stuff works a treat for nausea.

7) A PPI. With all that raw fish and exotic fruit you’ll be munching, heartburn is a given, so I’d want a good supply of a PPI and again one of the newer ones, not the penny-pinching prescribing adviser’s choice.

8) Aciclovir. With stress, a poor diet and excessive exposure to sunlight, a dose of shingles is a strong possibility. I’d start prophylactic aciclovir from the first day I washed up on the shore of my lonely tropical paradise.

As I reviewed this list, I realised there are no blood pressure medications, statins, blood thinners, cardiac drugs or diabetic medications. You’d have no use for any of those on a desert island, and, come the apocalypse, nor will any of us.

And which single medication would I save from the waves? Morphine, of course.

Dr David Turner is a GP in North West London

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Readers' comments (3)

  • John Cooper Clarke, punk poet, opted to take a lump of opium the size of his head as his luxury item when he appeared on Desert Island Discs. I think he forgot to ask for Docusate and Anusol though.

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  • I remember reading a book about the Chilean miners stuck in their hellhole with just bore-hole pipe to communicate through. Despite their hardship, one of the miners said he felt most like punching somebody when the inevitable mental-health professional came over the intercom and suggested they pass down some anti-depressants to the stricken men

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  • Holy smoke batman. You really hate psychiatrist don’t you?

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