- Researchers report that online reviews indicate people are using fish antibiotics for their very own illnesses.
- Additionally there are indications pet owners are using prescription pain medication created for their animals.
- Experts say serious health consequences can arise from people using medications prescribed by veterinarians for pets.
Kathleen Pancake didn’t have a bundle in her bank account on this kind of day when she suffered a painful injury while lifting the crate carrying her newly neutered dog into her car.
At the same time, the Indiana woman did what made sense to her and what more folks are reportedly doing rather than seeing a health care provider as well as “borrowing” prescription medication from a friend or family member.
Pancake popped among the Ultrain pain relievers the veterinarian had just provided on her behalf pet.
“It’s just par for the course when you do not have money and need help,” she told Healthline.
Pancake’s action speaks to a pattern apparently beginning to exhibit in U.S. medicine: people turning for their pets’prescriptions — particularly antibiotics — to deal with illnesses.
As the known cases continue to be few, a study presented at the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists semi-annual conference earlier this month reported that some Americans may be taking fish antibiotics rather than seeing their doctor to lessen their medical expenses.
The research hasn’t been published yet in a peer-reviewed journal.
It had been co-authored by P. Brandon Bookstaver, PharmD, a pharmacist and director of residency and fellowship training at the University of South Carolina College of Pharmacy.
Bookstaver looked at online reviews of fish antibiotics, which are plentiful online with no prescription and are cheaper than human drugs.
Bookstaver reported that “a small but significant percentage of consumers reviewed the antibiotics for human use.”
It started with trilogy research
Notice with this phenomenon first stumbled on light when Vermont author Rachel Sharp was researching the notion of postapocalyptic healthcare on her behalf “Planetary Tarantella” trilogy.
When she found folks reviewing fish antibiotics in what was code for human use, she tweeted her discovery.
She says she was shocked by the reviews, but as a person living with chronic illness, she felt compelled to generally share examples of people’s experiences.
Her tweet went viral.
Sharp was inundated with retweets coupled with others sharing how they’d had to create that choice. It floored her.
“There are apocalypse prepper blogs out there that recommend stockpiling fish antibiotics in case of another where medical care is unavailable,” she told Healthline. “The Amazon reviews demonstrate that that future has already been here.”
The dangers of pet prescriptions
In Pancake’s case, that wasn’t initially she’d made that choice.
Expensive doctor visits are the main reason, she says. But, she adds, she’s often been able to keep in touch with a medical provider to make sure what she’s choosing to take won’t harm her.
“They cannot inform you to do it,” she said, “but they could inform you if it will harm you. Needless to say, it helps to have a preexisting relationship with a provider who knows your situation.”
But those that study antibiotics are concerned at the possible trend.
“Taking any prescription drug without a proper diagnosis from the healthcare practitioner may be dangerous. In case of antibiotics, it can mean inappropriate treatment for a significant infection,” said Michael Ganio, PharmD, MS, BCPS, FASHP, the director of pharmacy practice and quality at the American Society of Hospital Pharmacists.
“Antibiotics must be carefully selected predicated on a patient’s symptoms and medical history, including allergies,” Ganio told Healthline.
“The excess concern with this study is that there is no oversight for these medications. There are no guarantees that these products support the labeled medication and strength. The merchandise might even contain ingredients which can be harmful to humans,” he said.
“Self-medication and the option of antibiotics without healthcare oversight might subscribe to increasing antimicrobial resistance and delayed appropriate treatment,” Bookstaver said when he presented the study.
“We were particularly concerned that the high volume of positive feedback on the comments about human use might encourage others to try to use these drugs.”
One review for fish antibiotics reads like this: “My ‘fish’has their wisdom teeth to arrive and caused an infection. This cleared the infection perfectly.”
Qualified advice: Don’t do it
Ganio says that while the incidents shown in the study were few, it came as a surprise.
“The rate of human usage of fish antibiotics in this study was low, but I was still surprised that this was happening at all,” he said.
Ganio comes with compassion for the situation.
“I can see right now any number of reasons for improperly using fish antibiotics: lack of timely usage of a principal care provider, general convenience, or the expense of the provider visit and prescribed medication,” he said.
But Ganio urges visitors to avoid medications created for animals.
“The accuracy and security of the drug supply chain is of utmost importance. Concerns about counterfeit or contaminated human drugs and dietary supplements are real and have triggered federal laws and regulations.
“Products created for fish have none of those protections and represent a chance when taken by humans. Patients should just take prescription drugs which were prescribed for them with a qualified, licensed practitioner and dispensed from an authorized pharmacy,” Ganio said.
But Pancake says those who have little choice wish things were different.
She says she’d just like the U.S. healthcare system to adopt more of a European model, where “a pharmacist can discuss the situation with someone and help choose an antibiotic and even painkiller, such as codeine, without a doctor’s input.”
“It’s obvious that something has to improve,” she said.