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Some try a different medication – pills meant for fish

Filed by KOSU News in Feature.
April 10, 2013

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Health care costs keep on moving up, beating inflation just about every year, which in the end, means more costs out of pocket. Whether you have health insurance or not, you’ll end up with a slimmer wallet for the same service. In a group of communities an hour or so west of Oklahoma City, some have come up with what they say is a solution…fish pills. Not fish oil, but medicine made for fish…

“I thought ahh, y’alls trying get me to, trying to spoof me.  Trying to get me to take something. After two or three or five of them said the same thing, no no it’s right, and several of some older fellas here in town.”

Todd Zimmerman, a truck driver based in tiny Mountain View, Oklahoma, stopped in his tracks as he remembered the story of when he first encountered what’s called fish-biotics.

“Slowly started feeling better. And slowly started, as I remember, just like any other antibiotic. I don’t think it was any different.”

Todd heard of them from Travis Green:

“I kinda got to the point where I wasn’t feeling good. And I was like, ‘Do you think these will work, do you think these will be alright for me to take?’ He was like, ‘I can’t sell it to you, as something you would really want to take because it’s not really labeled for humans. But there are people trying it out, and I took some, and several days later, I started feeling a little bit better.” And so I think they kinda helped out a little bit.”

Travis works at the co-op in Mountain View. He heard about them from his distributor four or five years ago. That distributor had just heard about it in passing. So now, right on the counter, are three different kinds of the fish-biotics: amoxicillin, penicillin, and the less common cephalexin.

They’ll take a couple when they feel a cold or virus coming on, and are convinced it’s working. But all who take the pills said the same thing: they had never asked any type of medical professional about them. So I did.

“I thought, no, surely people wouldn’t be so stupid. And then I looked it up on the internet and yes!”

Doctor David Chorley works at the Oklahoma State University Physicians Group in Tulsa.

“Suppose you’ve got mono, give somebody with mono amoxicillin, they get a massive rash or might have difficult breathing. If you give someone with a urinary tract infection erythromycin, it won’t work at all.”

What about the other angle?

Doctor Cornelia Ketz Riley is the head of the Avian, Exotic and Zoo Medicine service at the OSU Teaching Hospital in Stillwater.

“And maybe 9 times of 10 it works but the tenth time it would be a different bacterium involved that might be resistant to that drug and you could actually make it worse by using the wrong drugs.”

In Mountain View, where fathers, sons, wives and girlfriends, and more take these, they say they’ve never had any problems. They know they’re taking a calculated risk, but will continue to take it.

“Just try to keep that in my head that it’s just another antibiotic. It’s gotta help, it’s gotta do something. Taking two pills , maybe basically three times a day. And take it with food.”

Travis pointed me towards the Carnegie Co-op, 9 miles down the road from Mountain View, where sure enough, along with the usual feed, fertilizer and wood shavings are the simple white bottles with fish-biotics inside. Jesse Pearl, the manager, says there’s a reason more than 50 people there take it.

“It’s the same thing the doctor gives you, just probably a little dirtier. But a lot cheaper.”

Jesse and Travis both say they warn customers the pills are not labeled for human consumption, but also share their positive results. They figure this saves them time and money, waiting at the doctor, forking over a co-pay, then more money for the actual prescription.

In their minds, the medication does just as well. It comes from Farm Pharma LLC, out of Gravette, Arkansas. According to the Arkansas Secretary of State, that company’s status is revoked because they haven’t paid their franchise tax. Attempts to reach those behind Farm Pharma were not successful.

“The fish antibiotic is a really bad deal in the long run. Really bad.”

Doctor David Chorley, and his medical colleague Doctor Cornelia Ketz Riley.

“There should be other ways than just grabbing the first thing that you find online as a medication. So I probably would say those people should be a little bit more concerned to take more time to evaluate what’s out there.”

Between the two co-ops, they’ll go through maybe 30 bottles a month during the winter, with the bulk bought for people.

Every medical professional I talked to hopes that number shrinks to zero.

2 Responses to “Some try a different medication – pills meant for fish”

  1. @throatkooky says:

    Isn't it bad enough that physicians over-prescribe anti-biotics without this behavior?

  2. sharon settles says:

    are these fish antibiotics safe to take for humans that come from this company, its all thats available in tennessee, thanks

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