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Some Americans resort to fish antibiotics to save money on health care

Written by Diane Archer

Jessica Glenza reports for The Guardian on a new study finding that some Americans are likely resorting to taking fish antibiotics in order to save money on their health care. But, taking fish antibiotics is not a substitute for going to the doctor and filling a prescription. Fish and other animal antibiotics can be harmful to human beings.

The study looked at online comments on a web site that sells fish antibiotics. Based on these comments, researchers concluded that some Americans are likely taking these medicines in order to save money.

Fish antibiotics are available without a prescription. They may go by the same name as antibiotics doctors prescribe to humans, such as penicillin or amoxicillin, and cost less. And, they often look just like antibiotics prescribed to humans. All of these factors may lead some Americans who do not want to pay for prescription drugs to take fish antibiotics.

The researchers do not believe the incidence of human use of fish antibiotics is high. But, anyone taking these medicines may be increasing the likelihood of antimicrobial resistance—and less efficacy of antibiotics for humans—as well as causing injury to themselves.

One doctor in New York reported seeing a patient who had overdosed on fish antibiotics. She did not have health insurance. She ended up in the ICU, far sicker, and with a far higher medical bill than she would have had she gone to the doctor and taken antibiotics intended for humans.

The US health care system is broken. Only reform that makes health care affordable and available to everyone in the country will fix this social injustice.

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