My journey to reach the roof of Africa

Placebo Powered Kilimanjaro Medicine Bag?


Do you believe in a “pill for every ill”? I think I could be accused of being more than a little pro supplement and pharmaceuticals as I prepare for next month’s trip. I’ve done plenty of googling and  read a copy of “Altitude Illness: Prevention and Treatment” which I’ve found to be an excellent reference (and will be in my backpack up Kili)

I know I’m probably being a little over the top in what I’m taking with me to either actively use or have as a back-up. I rationalise to myself that it can’t hurt so why not take them even though I know that in the case of supplements their intended effects are not always backed up by evidenced based science. Here’s what I’ve got:

  • Altivit – a multivitamin and herb supplement designed to aid acclimatisation.
  • Glucosamineto aid cartilage production. I sometimes get knee pain so I figure I might as well try to give them a little help.
  • Garlic – to aid circulation/ coronary wellness and cholesterol issues. I’ve no history of heart problems but figure that cardio vascular performance is going to be important up Kili.  There’s also some tales that in Tibet that the local garlic soup helps acclimatisation.
  • Diamox (Acetazolamide) as a respiratory stimulant to help acclimatisation.
  • Ciprofloxacin – antibiotic useful in the treatment of diarrhoea.
  • Avomine (Promethazine) – an Antiemetic in case I get nauseous due to altitude or even stomach upset.
  • Imodium (loperamide hydrochlorid)  – Treats diarrhoea by slowing down muscle movements in the gut  so more water can be absorbed.
  • Malarone (Atovaquone Proguanil) – Anti Malarial tablets.
  • Ibuprofen – regular over the counter pain killers.

The UK’s National Health Service is designed to be “free at the point of use” but for a number of my medications I was expected to pay for a private prescription and pay for the drugs. I ended up sourcing the prescription only drugs online through~UK online pharmacy services  and    pharmacydirectGB. This was the first time I’d bought UK medicines online but I found it a slick experience, low cost and all the drugs came from regular UK dispensaries.

Let’s hope I’ve bought more than just a bag full of placebo effects with my supplements…


4 thoughts on “Placebo Powered Kilimanjaro Medicine Bag?

  1. Haha, nice post. I also bought that book, I note you’ve ruled out Dexamethasone and Viagra.

  2. Hi, I know that our guide’s medical kit includes Dexamethasone so I didn’t try to get some of my own. We’re also lucky that one of our group is a GP too (I bought her a copy of the altitude medicine book as soon as she signed on for the trip!). I did look at Viagra but found there’s less research on its use for AMS and figured that Diamox had wider acceptance and use in this role.

    Have I found a fellow “pill packer” then Chris? 😉

  3. Yes, ‘pill packer’ rather than ‘pill popper’, other than the anti-malaria drugs I intend to take nothing, that said if my climbing buddy or I develop HACE these pills could be life savers. I think you’re right about Viagra, I’m not sure how I could explain failing to reach the summit due to suffering from Viagra side effects!!

  4. As I’m going to be sharing a tent with my mate Jeff I too think it’s better to avoid the Viagra – don’t want to scare the poor chap!

    I’m still considering if I will take a small dose (1/2 tablet daily) of Diamox prophylactically – I might test one out before I go and see what, if any side effects happen (tingling extremities etc.). I’m certainly a pill popper with the supplements but with the “real” drugs most are there just a s back-ups.

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