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Old 18-03-2010, 12:24   #1
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No Thyroid! How to Cruise Without One?

So I have about two years before taking off, thinking about what I need to do to the boat and what I need to take and then suddenly it hits me--what about my synthroid? I had my thyroid removed ten years ago (cancer) and have to take a synthetic thyroid hormone for the rest of my life. When I leave to go cruising, I plan to be out of the country for at least three years. I'm sure my doctor isn't going to give me a prescription for three years' worth of synthroid.

What do other people who cruise and take maintenace type of medications do?


Jay White
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Old 18-03-2010, 12:37   #2
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Talk to your doctor and a pharmacist. You may find you can get prescription drugs in many areas of the world with little trouble. You may require additional exams as part of continuing the prescription so talking with your doctor is still a good idea to make sure you have all sorts of things checked off.

Shelf life aboard may be a factor. Pharmacists can give you more details on storage and availability of drugs around the areas you plan to travel than a doctor. Any local pharmacy should be happy to help. You should in any case set up a plan for your health before you leave. When you have cash money, medical care is far easier to come by.

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Old 18-03-2010, 12:38   #3
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First you should discuss this with your doctor. I'm sure when you explain your situation he or she will be happy to recommend some solution. However, if you are leaving the US, a US prescription would be useless anyway. Perhaps a letter from your doctor documenting the situation would make it easier to refill overseas?

A quick check on the internet indicates concerns with shelf life of synthroid so stocking up would be a concern.

Certainly you will have family or friends back home that could UPS or DHL refills to you.
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Old 18-03-2010, 12:53   #4
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You need to talk with your doctor about your medicines. Most doctors will write you a prescription to accomodate your cruising routine. I'd also carry a certified copy of my medical record if you need to consult a doctor anywhere you are or the authorities question your stock of drugs.

When we were out many years ago, our doctor gave us samples that the drug companies plied him with. Didn't cost us anything other than the medical visit and stocked our medicine chest with a lot of prescription drugs. He also gave us an expired copy of the PDR which was immensely helpful evaluating the drugs we had when we had to treat an affliction based on the symptoms.

If you need drugs that are subject to deterioration and/or require refrigeration (insulin), you are going to have to get refills along the way. In third world countries, drugs aren't as closely guarded by the pharmacists. You can get a lot of drugs without a prescription. In any case, a prescription will get you what you need. Having your medical records would facilitate getting a local prescription if that became necessary.

Last but not least, don't get hooked on prescription drugs. Quite often folk remedies will work just as well. I used up most of our supply of anti-biotics treating a recurring staph infection. Cured it in a couple of days with a weak bleech solution. BTW, the bleach solution was advocated by a cruising MD.
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Old 18-03-2010, 13:18   #5
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As you know, Synthroid is Levothyroxin. Outside the continental USA it is available under a number of other 'Brand Names'. Except on small Pacific islands, in extreme poverty stricken areas and perhaps around the Arctic and Antarctic, you should be able to get Levothyroxin just about anywhere. A study done in the early 90's showed that there was little difference between Synthroid and generic Levothyroxin, except perhaps, clever marketing.

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Old 18-03-2010, 13:34   #6
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G'Day 318,

I still have my thyroid, but it is a lazy bugger and I have taken one form or another of thyroid hormone supplement for nearly 50 years. We've been cruising full time in the south pacific since 1986, and I have never experienced much difficulty in acquiring the drug when I ran out. The current form of Thyroxine that is marketed in the Australian area now requires refrigeration for storage which is a bit of nuisance, and it is supplied in blister packs which are very bulky. I get a years supply at a time, strip them from the packs and put them in a bottle in the fridge. Just had a blood test and the TSH level was spot on, so I guess this system works! Incidentally, I have found that this drug is much cheaper once you leave the states... wonder why?

Carrying a document that describes your condition will perhaps save a few doctor visits, depending on where your cruising grounds might be, but I have never had a problem getting a strange (to me) doc to write the necessary Rx.


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Old 18-03-2010, 13:53   #7
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Synthroid (levothyroxine) is available world wide so, as said, you should be able to get it wherever you go. Ask your doctor /pharmacist about form equivalence as there may be some variation in how well a particular form is absorbed.
Seeing a "local" doc with a letter should get you what you need- it's not like you have a Rx for Oxycodone or something like that.
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Old 18-03-2010, 14:36   #8
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It's easily available here in Panama... without recipe. They just stopped selling Tapazol though (hyperthyroidism, the opposite for thyroids too active) and we have to be creative to still get it locally (it's for a cat). But Fedex takes mostly 3 days to get it anywhere so I wouldn't worry but I also wouldn't wait too long before adding to the on-board supply (get new when half is used up).

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Old 19-03-2010, 08:39   #9
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Thanks for the replies! I feel much better now with this information.

Jay White
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