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Coded Amazon reviews show people are taking antibiotics intended for fish - yes, really

Why taking antibiotics meant for animals isn’t a good idea.
Amazon Reviews Fish Antibiotics
Photo: Getty Images

Healthcare is expensive, but is it so expensive that people are bypassing doctors altogether and opting for other health alternatives? One look into the depths of Amazon seems to show that it’s true.

“How bad is American healthcare?” writer Rachel Sharp tweeted on July 30. “Read the reviews for aquarium antibiotics and decide for yourself.”
 

Her tweet was followed with photos of user reviews expressing happiness with how the drug Moxifish help cure their “fish.” One reviewer touted the fish antibiotic as a “great alternative to racking up debt at the aquarium hospital.”

“My fish came down with a nasty case of bronchitis and sinusitis just before Christmas, but her health insurance doesn't kick in until the first of the year,” she wrote.

“So she couldn't go to a fish doctor because she only makes minimum wage at the aquarium, and a trip to the fish emergency room would have put her in debt so far she wouldn't be able to get out. So she tapped on the edge of her tank with her sick little fin and blew bubbles in morse code to ask me to order these for her.”

Read between the lines and you’ll see that the reviewer really means he’s taking it, not his beloved pet.

Antibiotics are used in both human and animal healthcare to fight against illness brought on by bacteria. Many of the antibiotics used on animals are similar to those used in humans, making them an attractive option for people who want to skip the doctor’s visit — and the cost — needed for a prescription. Hoarding animal antibiotics (including fish antibiotics) is also popular with preppers or survivalists waiting for doomsday, and the web is littered with advice from on how to get antibiotics meant for fish or other animals.

Is it safe to take fish antibiotics?

There’s a reason why you can’t buy antibiotics over the counter: overuse leads to the creation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria — often referred to as the scary-sounding “superbugs”  — without a way to stop it.

“The more we use an antibiotic, the faster resistance to it develops, since resistance is the process of bacteria learning to protect themselves against whatever the antibiotic does to kill them,” Maryn McKenna, author of Superbug: The Fatal Menace of MRSA, told The Daily Dot in 2016. “So if we don’t closely control access to antibiotics…then resistance will happen faster because there’s more of the drug out there than there would otherwise be.”

And not all antibiotics are meant for humans.

“Some antibiotics are better for humans, and some are better for animals,” veterinarian Justin G. Bergeron told The International Food Information Council Foundation.

“This is, in part, because of the different side effects that a given antibiotic can have in different species,” he added. “Many antibiotics can be toxic to the human or animal taking them because they affect other organs and tissues, as well as the bacteria they are designed to fight. This is why some antibiotics are labeled ‘For dog use only,’ or ‘For human consumption only’.”

However, it’s still relatively easy to get antibiotics meant for animals at farm supply stores and online, though the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is trying to curb the problem by updating the Veterinary Feed Directive to require animal producers to get a veterinarian’s authorization before getting access to antibiotics.

But count Amazon as one of the place you can’t get them anymore: Product pages for Moxifish and other animal antibiotics now redirect to error pages.