The grid is down, so you and a few friends have organized a neighborhood church for worship. One Sunday morning a stranger in a business suit struggles in, barely able to walk After the service you sit with him at the potluck dinner.
“It’s the gout,” he grimaces, sitting down. “It only hits me a few times a year, but when it does I can barely move. What I wouldn’t give for some Indocin! You don’t happen to have any, do you?”
In fact you don’t have that prescription medication on hand, but you have stocked up on generic Advil, Aleve, and aspirin. And, having read Armageddon Medicine, you realize that these may work just as well.
Having sufficient on hand to share, what do you do?
1. As a fellow church attender, give him 5 days worth, free of charge.
2. Offer to sell him 20 pills at your cost.
3. Decide that a fourfold markup is fair, similar to the difference between manufacturing and retail prices.
4. Calculate what it would be worth to you if you were in his situation, and ask if he would like to exchange his business suit for a supply of anti-inflammatory medicine.
5. Knowing that you may never be able to replenish your supply, and that gout is not life-threatening, you apologize and answer no.
The above options raise issues that may be useful in establishing a bartering policy.
1. How will you set the value of an item?
2. Will you treat strangers differently than family or friends?
3. To whom should you offer charity?
4. Under what circumstances would you barter?
Regarding over-the-counter products, should the value be higher for an OTC medication that could legitimately replace a prescription drug? Should the amount you have on hand figure into the calculation? Should the price increase as your supply decreases?
Below are my recommendations for OTC medications that would be valuable in a barter economy.
1. Pain medications (ibuprofen, naproxen, aspirin, and acetaminophen)
2. Nausea medication (Bonine, Dramamine, or other version of meclizine)
3. Diarrhea medication (Imodium or loperamide)
4. Allergy medications (diphenhydramine, loratadine, cetirizine)
5. Skin preparations (hydrocortisone cream, bacitracin, antifungal cream)
6. Anti-acid preparations (antacids, H2-blockers such as ranitidine, proton pump inhibitors such as Prilosec or Prevacid)
7. Bladder pain relief (Azo)
8. Sleep medications (Tylenol PM, Advil PM, NyQuil)
9. Anxiety medications (although these are not specifically for anxiety, meclizine or diphenhydramine maybe useful)
In addition to the above, you may want to invest in Asthmanefrin, which may be life-saving in the event of an acute asthma attack or allergic reaction. Fish antibiotics, which are intended for aquarium use, may also come in useful in an emergency situation when no medical help is available.
I also suggest you set a budget and buy what you can within your means. For $50 you could get a decent assortment of useful OTC drugs.
Additionally, make sure you check the expiration date on everything, especially any liquid preparations. Although medications do not “go bad” immediately after the “Best if used by” date on the bottle, still it would be desirable to acquire medications that are not short-dated. On the other hand, you may be able to get some great two-for-one deals on products that are set to expire soon.
One last note: unless you are a professional, you should never present yourself as one. Although practicing medicine without a license in a crisis situation may never cause a legal problem, you should always be honest about your credentials. Bartering with adolescents or children is also a potential problem; even in a crisis situation I suggest you deal with parents if at all possible, despite the fact that these drugs can be purchased without a prescription.