Must-have Drugs

27 July 2010 By Janine Ketterer

It’s going to happen. At some point a crewmember, owner or guest will fall ill or have some sort of medical ailment. And when that happens, you may be in the position where you can’t just run to the pharmacy to pick up an antibiotic or an extra bottle of pain reliever. Yachts have to carry a complete supply of medical supplies and medicines.

Dr. Paulo M. Alves, MD, MSc, VP of Aviation & Maritime Health of MedAire, says that there is a rational aspect that must be considered when planning what you need on board. He maintains that although you must first think about the medications that you will need for everyday use; also you must factor in drugs that you will hopefully never have to use, such as cardiovascular drugs like ephedrine and nitroglycerin, in case of a heart attack.

It’s important to note where the yacht will be traveling. The amount of medication on board a transoceanic yacht will be much greater than that on a coastal yacht. The MCA has regulations and guidelines on this very topic: Medication at Sea.

Jill Drake, marketing director of MedAire, says, “The type and quantity of medications to be carried on a vessel depends on its size and the typical itinerary. Onboard kits should contain medications to assist in the initial management of a variety of health issues and injuries that are likely to happen during a routine voyage, including:

· vomiting and diarrhea

· headaches

· contusions

· sprains

· serious situations such as abdominal pain, chest pain or anaphylactic reaction.”

“Vessels traveling through areas where malaria is present should carry anti-malarial drugs,” Drake adds. “These kits should fulfill the requirements of international regulatory bodies such as Maritime Coastguard Agency or World Health Organization as well as recommendations from a medical advisory service.”

Due to the fact that some prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medications display various side effects, it’s imperative to keep a careful eye on those who have ingested any medications.

Children under the age of 12 cannot be treated with the same medications or dosages as adults. Pediatric medical kits are available in the event that a child on board falls ill. This fall, MedAire will launch a training program, set to be ready for the Monaco and Fort Lauderdale boat shows to teach crew how to handle pediatric ailments.

Obviously not all of medication on board a yacht will be used. It is important to note the medications’ expiration dates and properly destroy them if they have indeed expired. Drake says, “The proper disposal of expired controlled substances such as narcotics (e.g., morphine) or benzodiazepines (e.g., Valium) is extremely important to prevent improper or fraudulent use. The best disposal method is incineration.”

Crew also can send expired medications to reverse distributors who will properly dispose of them, as will local law enforcement.

Drake adds, “Unused or expired prescription medicines can be taken to local drug take-back programs, if available. The best alternative is to remove the medications from their original containers and mix them with undesirable substances such as pet litter or used coffee grounds, then place the mixture into a disposable container with a lid (e.g., margarine tub) or a sealable bag, then place the sealed container or bag with the mixture in the trash. Prior to disposing, remove all personal and prescription information from the container or cover with permanent marker.”