There is a lot of controversy and confusion in the disaster prepping community on the topic of fish antibiotics for human use.
If you are thinking of stockpiling them in your Just-In-Case supplies, here is what you need to know.
Are Fish Antibiotics the Same As Human Antibiotics?
When you start shopping for fish antibiotics, you’ll be surprised to see that most don’t come in powder or pellet form. Rather, they are pills or tablets.
How the hell is a fish supposed to take a pill???
Obviously, these “fish” antibiotics aren’t actually meant for fish.
The sellers know that people like preppers want to get antibiotics without a prescription so they exploit a loophole in the law which allows them to market antibiotics for fish – even though they are the same pills for humans.
Right now, the FDA does not require a prescription for fish antibiotics.
Difference between Animal and Human Antibiotics
For an antibiotic to work properly, it isn’t enough for it to contain a certain ingredient (such as penicillin). The antibiotics also must be formulated in a way that ensures absorption in the patient, and absorption in the right place.
For example, antibiotics for cows (which have 4 stomachs) will need to be formulated differently than those for humans.
As far as fish antibiotics go, you CAN NOT take powders or pellet forms of the antibiotics and expect them to be effective on humans. These are meant for fish.
However, if you see pill or tablet antibiotics marketed as “for fish,” these are really human forms of the medicines which have just been labeled for fish to get around the prescription requirement. I feel bad for any pet owner who mistakenly buys pill forms of antibiotics for their fish!
How can you be sure that the fish antibiotics you buy really are meant for humans? Read on…
FDA Labeling Requirements
I’ve bought fish antibiotics from a few different stores to see what I would get. When the packages arrived, I opened them up to check out the pills. There were small letters and numbers on the pills, aka “Imprint Codes.”
I suggest you read this article on Drugs.com about Imprint Codes. In summary, the FDA requires all prescription and OTC medications to have a unique imprint. The purpose of the code is make it possible to identify medications. For example, if you drop your pill box and all the meds go flying, you would be able to identify the pills by their Imprint Code.
All Imprint Codes will identify the type of drug and its strength.
You can use this Pill Identifier tool to type in the Imprint Code of a pill and find out exactly what it is.
If you get pills which do not have an imprint code, then DO NOT TAKE THEM! Who knows what they contain and in what dosage!
If the pills do contain an imprint code, then you can be confident that they are the same pills used for humans.
As one fish antibiotic seller told Survival Doctor, the fish pills are the same ones as humans. They source the pills from a manufacturer that makes them for humans and then repackages them as fish antibiotics.
Same Pills Doesn’t Always Mean the Same Quality
So the fish antibiotics you bought are the exact same pills that are sold for humans. That means they are safe to use, right?
Drugs made for animals are not held to the same standards as those made for humans.
For example, there are very strict regulations about how human antibiotics must be packaged, stored, and shipped. In an extreme case, the fish antibiotics you buy could be contaminated with protozoan or microbes. A more likely scenario, however, is that poor storage conditions could have caused the antibiotics to deteriorate and lose their effectiveness.
Basically, you are taking a risk whenever you buy fish antibiotics for human use. You can’t be 100% sure that the antibiotics are safe to use.
What Does “USP Standard” Mean on Fish Antibiotics?
As I said above, animal medications aren’t held to the same standards as human meds, so you are taking a risk by taking fish antibiotics.
Some sellers try to install confidence in the buyers by slapping labels on their products. One of the most common is “Made According to USP Standards.”
The United States Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) is a nonprofit organization which sets the standards for medications. These standards are used in over 140 countries. Any human drug sold in the United States must meet USP standards.
Here’s the thing: Not a single fish antibiotic has been verified by the USP!
Again, I emphasize that the pill ingredients might be the exact same as the ones sold for humans, but it doesn’t mean it is the same quality.
For example, the fish antibiotics could have been stored in a way which allowed mold to grow on them. Or maybe moisture levels were too high and destroyed the pills.
You might also see labels like “Pharmaceutical Grade” on fish antibiotics. However, like with the USP label, this doesn’t really mean anything.
Here are some of the most common fish antibiotics you will find for sale online and what their human dosage equivalent is. Remember, always check the Imprint Code on the pills!
- Fish Mox = Amoxicillin 500mg
- Fish Flex = Keflex 500mg
- Fish Zole = Metronidazole 500mg
- Fish Pen Forte = Penicillin 500mg
- Fish Cin =Clindamycin 150mg
- Fish Cillin = Ampicillin 250mg
- Fin Flox = Ciprofloxacin 500mg
If you plan on stockpiling fish antibiotics for SHTF disasters, then you need to be aware of the expiration dates. Just like with your food stockpiles, antibiotics can go bad.
Most antibiotics that you find will have an expiration date of about 1 to 5 years. However, most antibiotics will probably still be good well after their expiration date.
A major study was done by the Department of Defense and FDA Shelf Life Extension Program. They tested 122 different products and found that most (88%) of them were good for at least 1 year after the expiration date with an average of 5 years after expiration date.
However, the test was done while the medications were kept in ideal conditions – meaning away from heat, light, moisture, and in original packaging. Most fish antibiotics for humans are generic drugs which have been repackaged, so they already aren’t in the ideal conditions.
In most cases, taking an expired antibiotic isn’t going to directly harm you. It just means that the antibiotic will have lost its potency. But this can be very dangerous because taking weak drugs can lead to mutations and antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. So, you would still be sick and now with a resistant strain of bacteria!
In other cases, taking expired antibiotics can directly harm you. The most notable example is tetracycline (Fish Cycline). It may break down into a toxic substance, so expired tetracycline can harm you.
Should You Buy Fish Antibiotics for Prepping?
First, I want to say that self-medicating is ALWAYS a bad idea! The vast majority of illnesses are caused by viruses and NOT by bacteria, so taking antibiotics isn’t going to help. Overuse of antibiotics is causing mutant strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, so we really should be vary about taking antibiotics.
Further, would you even know which antibiotic to take if you got sick? If you are thinking of stockpiling antibiotics, then you better get a medical guide to go with them.
Before I’d take fish antibiotics, I would go through my other options first – such as natural remedies like herbal antibiotics. This is a lot safer than self-medicating with drugs that might be expired or contaminated.
But we aren’t talking about using fish antibiotics for everyday use. We are talking about stockpiling fish antibiotics for SHTF situations where you have no other options.
In a real SHTF situation, the risk of bacteria diseases will skyrocket (read this post about the disaster hygiene problem no one wants to talk about).
Do you really want to die because you got a minor infection from a cut on your hand or similar but had no medications?
Go ahead and stockpile fish antibiotics as part of your disaster prepping – but only if you take these precautions:
- Research antibiotics, when they should be used, and how they should be used.
- Buy a good antibiotics guide to keep with your stockpile.
- Only buy fish antibiotics from a reputable source. Ebay is NOT reputable!
- Check the imprint codes on the antibiotics so you know exactly what it is. Don’t store fish antibiotics that don’t have imprint codes.
- Store your antibiotics in the ideal conditions. This usually means in the refrigerator and never in the bathroom medicine cabinet.
- Rotate your stockpile of fish antibiotics so they don’t expire.
Here is where I need to make a disclaimer that I am not a doctor and none of this should be construed as medical advice! I am just a concerned citizen like yourself who wants to be prepared for disaster by making sure to have life-saving antibiotics if necessary.
Are you stockpiling fish antibiotics? What’s your SHTF medical plan? Let us know in the comments.