It's a post-apocalyptic world: what drugs do you pack?
The world as you know it has ended.
Earth-shattering natural disasters have swept the globe: floods, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, acid rain, bushfires, maybe even rabid monkeys.
You have been chosen as the medical officer to accompany a group of survivors who have volunteered to recolonise the planet.
You can take a lifetime's supply of medication with you.
The only catch: you're allowed to choose just 20 drugs.
Which do you choose? The fate of humanity rests on your shoulders.
It may sound like a science fiction book, but this is the premise of a new survey designed to investigate doctors' prescribing preferences and the influence of pharmaceutical company marketing.
"There are thousands of drugs on the market, but the drugs physicians seem to be most familiar with are the most promoted, top-selling drugs," said lead researcher Adriane Fugh-Berman, an associate professor of pharmacology at Georgetown University in the US.
"I began thinking about what drugs prescribers would choose when limited to a drastically restricted personal formulary. That's how it started!"
Next, the researchers wondered: what kind of apocalypse would test the doctors' mettle best?
So they put it to a vote. Natural disasters won out from an impressive list of world-ending scenarios, including a zombie apocalypse, nuclear fallout, a shipwreck, or worldwide bankruptcy.
"It's really a thought experiment — almost a philosophical question," Professor Fugh-Berman said.
And it's one doctors across the globe have been keen to answer. With little fanfare (the survey is mostly passed on through word-of-mouth) the team garnered 325 responses from 23 countries in its first few days.
"It's clear it's been thought-provoking. Several participants have written us emotional emails along the lines of ‘Oh no, I forgot Drug X! Please trade it out for Drug Y!'," she said.
Unfortunately, formal entries to the survey have now closed. The results are due out later this year.
In the meantime, tell us your preferences: will today's blockbusters like statins and metformin win out? Will antidepressants be needed to cope with the trauma of a global apocalypse?
Or would you turn survivalist — packing your medicine bags with steroids and ritalin to give the human race the physical and mental burst it will need to rebuild?
Let us know your thoughts in the DISQUS comments section below.