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Obamacare failure: The uninsured are turning to over-the-counter animal drugs

(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

As Obamacare costs continue to spiral out of control, some cash-strapped Americans are skipping the doctor’s office and heading to the pet store for relief (and no, we’re not talking about therapy dogs). Unbeknownst to them, Petco, PetSmart and other veterinary supply stores are now serving an entirely new clientele — one without fur or fins.

Insurance premiums rose by an average of 22 percent last year, and according to a Gallup-Healthways poll, 11.3 percent of U.S. adults didn’t have health insurance during the first quarter of the year. As such, it’s no surprise that desperate Americans are seeking alternatives to conventional medical care.

While drugs like antibiotics aren’t incredibly expensive, a simple doctor’s visit can be costly for those without insurance. On the other hand, many pet drugs are available over-the-counter, and prices are fairly reasonable.

Although uninsured people have been taking pet meds for years, Obamacare has made it more mainstream, so to speak. Mashable found several online forums offering advice to desperate, uninsured self-healers.

Posts reveal that people without insurance have been using everything from horse liniment to over-the-counter pet antibiotics to treat themselves. Some stores have caught onto this trend and made the drugs difficult for humans to consume, but online stores have only increased access to them. Comical online reviews about fish antibiotics helping “fish” with their “wisdom teeth coming in” or “sinus infections” only shed light on this growing healthcare crisis.

Carrera Howie, who couldn’t afford a visit to the doctor even with her insurance, resorted to fish antibiotics from Walmart to treat her urinary tract infection.

“Urgent care and doctors’ copays are so expensive and it sometimes feels like I have to make a choice between having a provider and having groceries,” she explained.

Daniel Freedberg, an assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University, warns that self-medicating with pet meds can be risky due to the differences in size and weight between humans and fish. He argues that even as a doctor, he would have no idea how to determine the correct dosage, and that overuse could be dangerous to the body.

Maria Brömme, a veterinarian at Pacific Animal Clinic in Santa Monica, California, adds that the difference in species’ metabolisms could lead to accidental overdoses when taking animal antibiotics, and calls fish antibiotic use “silly and dangerous.”

Undeterred, Americans will continue to get their paws on pet meds as long as our healthcare system remains on life support. 

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