Why are Oklahomans turning to medicine meant for their pet fish?
FOX 25 uncovered a bizarre way some people are cutting corners to save on their medications. They're skipping the doctor's visit and heading straight to the web to get what they need. But before you go online and click "purchase," you should know it's a little fishy.
At less than a dollar a pill, some folks are catching on. Fish antibiotics work for more than just our finned friends. Some reviews on Amazon call them "redneck antibiotics." "They cured my fish's tooth ache," said one customer. Another wrote that the pills are "a great alternative to racking up debt at the fish hospital."
To find out exactly what's in those bottles, FOX 25 ordered two popular brands, Fin Mox and Amoxfin. Both are advertised to treat common bacterial infections in fish. We showed them to pharmacist Chelsea Church, who is with the Oklahoma Board of Pharmacy.
"We are dealing with an amoxicillin 500," she said.
Using identifying markers on the capsules, Church told us the pills from both bottles came from the same manufacturer, made for humans, and then repackaged, labeled for fish. Church said the generic amoxicillin in the "fish" capsules was the same drug in the prescription pills called in by our doctor that we picked up at a local pharmacy. She acknowledged some Oklahomans are among those reaching for the cheaper treatment.
We found folks claiming the pills have worked to treat all kinds of infections, from bronchitis and ear infections to sinus infections and urinary tract infections.
"Self diagnosing in itself is not a good idea," said Church. "Because you don't know exactly if you're treating a virus versus a bacteria or whether the antibiotic is even needed," she said.
The wrong dose or wrong kind of drug can lead to antibacterial resistance or worse.
"The biggest and most life threatening would be any type of adverse event or being allergic to them," said Church.
There's also no way to know if the pills were ever tampered with or the original expiration date. Some medications can turn toxic after expiring.
"This cannot take the place of a healthcare professional," warned Church. "You must have the correct diagnosis. And you must have the correct dosage form."
Telemedicine, which is reaching a doctor over the phone or video chat, can be an affordable way to get your meds the right way. And if you're planning for a time when you can't get to a doctor and you're going to store antibiotics, generics are cheap, and some doctors will prescribe a round if you explain what it's for.