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People Are Using Their Pets’ Prescription Meds: Why That’s a Terrible Idea


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  • Researchers report that online reviews indicate people are using fish antibiotics for their own illnesses.
  • There are also indications pet owners are using prescription pain medication intended 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 lot of money in her bank account on this particular day when she suffered a painful injury while lifting the crate carrying her newly neutered dog into her car.

At once, the Indiana woman did what made sense to her and what more people are reportedly doing in place of seeing a doctor or even “borrowing” prescription medication from a friend or family member.

Pancake popped one of the Ultrain pain relievers the veterinarian had just provided for her pet.

“It’s just par for the course when you don’t have money and need help,” she told Healthline.

Pancake’s action speaks to a trend apparently beginning to show in U.S. medicine: people turning to their pets’ prescriptions — particularly antibiotics — to treat illnesses.

While the known cases are still 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 reduce their medical expenses.

The study hasn’t been published yet in a peer-reviewed journal.

It was 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 readily available 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 of this phenomenon first came to light when Vermont author Rachel Sharp was researching the idea of postapocalyptic healthcare for her “Planetary Tarantella” trilogy.

When she found folks reviewing fish antibiotics in what seemed to be 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 share examples of people’s experiences.

Her tweet went viral.

Sharp was inundated with retweets coupled with folks sharing how they’d had to make that choice. It floored her.

“There are apocalypse prepper blogs out there that recommend stockpiling fish antibiotics in case of a future in which medical care is unavailable,” she told Healthline. “The Amazon reviews demonstrate that that future is already here.”


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