The Tennessee Poison Center has recently received calls about humans taking antibiotics intended for treating fish. In one case, a patient self-treated an assumed bacterial infection with fish antibiotics and suffered severe gastroenteritis and dehydration requiring emergency department treatment with intravenous fluids and other medications.
Fish antibiotics are available online and without a prescription. They may be cheaper than the local pharmacy out-of-pocket expenses without insurance. An online review found a 30-count bottle of fish amoxicillin sold for $8.99, which is about $10-$15 cheaper than pharmaceutical amoxicillin. And fish antibiotics don’t have the added expenses of time and money spent on a visit to the doctor’s office. For the 27 million Americans who lack health insurance, fish antibiotics may seem like a less expensive way to treat an assumed infection.
However, taking these products is not without risk. Unlike antibiotics for humans or other animals, fish antibiotics are completely unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration, so it is impossible to know if they contain what the label states and are safe for human consumption. Self-medication with fish antibiotics might contribute to increasing antimicrobial resistance. Patients may also delay appropriate treatment causing potentially life-threatening infections. Like all medications, antibiotics should be dispensed from a pharmacy with a prescription from a licensed medical professional.
This question prepared by: Justin Loden, PharmD, CSPI, DABAT
Can you believe this? We certainly see novel uses of herbs, medicinals, OTC medications and internet remedies. But I must admit, this is the first time I’ve even heard of fish antibiotics. My recommendation, as an experienced toxicologist, is probably better not to use. Ds
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Donna Seger, MD
Tennessee Poison Center
Poison Help Hotline: 1-800-222-1222