Thyroid UK
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Sailing around the world. Can I get a years worth of Levothyroxine?

Hey there.

I have been taking levothyroxine since birth, (I'm 25 next month) I have regular blood tests every year and have been on the same dose for about 10 years.

I am going off sailing around the world next year for anything from 2 - 7 years. I have been wondering what to do about my medication. I ideally can't register at a local doctor, as I will be visiting so many different places and possibly not staying very long at each location. I know the NHS can give you 3 months worth of meds in one go, but that is not enough or practical as I will be sailing across the Atlantic etc and only having 3 months doesn't sort out the medication problem long term or allow for any emergencies.

I am unable to make an appointment with my doctor yet and was wondering if anyone knows whether a private prescription from a doctor would be able to give me 12 months worth of thyroxine in one hit? Or if any one has any other suggestions, that would be greatly appreciated!

8 Replies

If you know what countries you will be visiting, you can find out through the internet, I believe, if the pharmacists require a prescription as some countries dispense what you need without one.

You could always ask if your GP would consider a 12 months prescription and he may be agreeable. I don't know the regulations.


Thanks for your reply. I was considering buying it over the counter if I can in a country, but it also depends on coast as I do have a budget for the trip.

I did mention a 12 month prescription in passing to my GP and she said that the maximum they can do is give me 3 months... so I'm wondering if they can give me more on a private prescription.


You can readily purchase various levothyroxine products on the internet and in many countries without prescription. The three month rule is clearly there to stop people getting all their medicines provided by the NHS when they are not really resident here.

If I were you I would think about making sure that I had some very good evidence of need (e.g. a doctor's letter "To whom it may concern...", old prescriptions, etc.) You could end up needing to get some quickly in all sorts of odd places and if you do need a prescription, anything that convinces a local doctor could be of use.

Always remember that humidity, heat and oxygen are enemies of thyroid hormones. Make sure any you take with you are absolutely sealed. Divide your stock so that if one lot is damaged or lost you still have the remainder. Stow it somewhere that is at the cooler end of the scale. Consider always carrying at least a small amount with you so that whatever happens you have some available.

Thinking a bit more, you might consider getting your whole medical record from your GP (and anyone else who might hold them). Far away from home in a strange land is not the time to wonder if you had X, Y or Z as a young child, are allergic to ABC, or anything else. Can always scan them and make them available from a cloud file store with a password.



Thank you so much for all your help and advice. I will definitely get a letter from my doctor explaining the condition, as I know in the US they are very hot on carrying prescription medication; any proof I need them is essential.

I'm also going to store some of them in zip lock bags so they're air tight and in the bilge of the boat. It will be under the water line so a lot cooler down there! Good idea splitting them up, I'll have to put some in the life raft for emergencies as well as in a grab bag. I didn't think about carrying any on me, just incase I got in trouble for it... but then again if I carry a letter around with me I should be okay.

I didn't even think about taking a copy of my records. I didn't realise I could do that...


I don't see why you couldn't phone your gp surgery explain the situation and ask if your could get 12 months worth of tablets if you don't ask you don't get, failing that I think Rods idea of a letter or having your medical record to hand would be useful


Thanks for your reply!

I did ask my GP in passing if they could give me 12 months worth of medication, but she said they were only able to do 3 months in one go (on NHS at least).

She also said I could register with local doctors wherever I go but that isn't an ideal option for me.


You can buy them over the counter in Spain definitely x

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Thanks! :)


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