Stocking antibiotics for a catastrophe has been a topic of conversation among preppers for as long as I’ve been writing about prepping (now 15 years). The challenge, of course, is trying to find over the counter antibiotics. It’s impossible, right?
Not exactly. It can be done, but it requires… unconventional approaches.
I’ll explain, but let’s back up for a second.
Why Preppers Need to Stock Antibiotics
I’ve found most new preppers tend to first dive into firearms and food. They’ll buy up whatever they think the best gun for SHTF is, then they’ll stock canned goods and freeze-dried foods. Intermediate preppers begin calculating how much water they should store, start storing rice and beans, etc.
Stock beans, bullets, and bandages!
– survivalist saying
Sprinkled between the food and firearms, newer preppers will begin adding some medical supplies. They may buy a first aid kit or make an IFAK kit. They’ll buy a copy of Where There is No Doctor, and – usually – that’s about as far as they’ll go for medical supplies.
- Used Book in Good Condition
- David Werner (Author)
These are great steps to take, and without question, the prepper that takes these medical measures will be significantly better-suited to surviving a catastrophe than the average American. However, we can always do better, and during a crisis, odds are high that antibiotics will be needed by many. They’re one of the main drugs I recommend people pack in a bug out bag, and they’re equally important at home for an extended crisis.
We Take Access to Antibiotics for Granted
It is easy to take our collective dependence on antibiotics for granted. We’re sick so we head to the doctor’s office, end up seeing the nurse practitioner instead, and then leave with a prescription called in to our local pharmacy.
However, this wasn’t always the case. The first antibiotics were not prescribed until the late 1930s. After that, the rates of bacterial infection as a cause of death plummeted. Between 1944 and 1972, human life expectancy jumped by eight years as a result of it. Penicillin ushered in a whole new era in medicine.
If access to health care – and antibiotics – became a problem, simple diseases and infections that we think nothing of today could once again pose serious risk to our lives.
Antibiotics are Critical After a Crisis
During a humanitarian crisis, whether it’s the result of war or natural disaster, communicable diseases pose a serious risk to the surviving population. It’s the risks associated with population displacement that causes problems.
According to a study from the National Library of Medicine:
The availability of safe water and sanitation facilities, the degree of crowding, the underlying health status of the population, and the availability of healthcare services all interact within the context of the local disease ecology to influence the risk for communicable diseases and death in the affected population.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2725828/
So, the breakdown in infrastructure and cleanliness leads to a spread in infectious diseases. An earthquake, as an example, destroys infrastructure and displaces people, which then gives way to disease outbreaks because people are huddled together in an unsanitary environment.
Examples include an outbreak of norovirus in Texas after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and cutaneous leishmaniasis outbreaks during the Syrian conflict beginning in 2013.
In other parts of the world, cholera remains a serious problem. It’s an acute diarrheal disease that can kill within hours if left untreated. Severe cases require – you guessed it – antibiotic treatment. What is considered a problem only in developing countries could quickly create problems in modern countries following a local or national catastrophe.
How to Buy Over the Counter Antibiotics
Back in the early days of prepping, when prepping was still a largely “hush hush” topic lest you be viewed as an extremist, there was only my site and a handful of others dedicated to prepping. The biggest by far was Survival Blog. There people would often discuss how to convince their doctors to prescribe antibiotics even though they – medically – didn’t need them at the time.
That puts the doctor in a precarious position, and they are not likely to just go prescribing “unnecessary” antibiotics because their patient fears the end of the world is coming. It is possible, more so today than yesteryear, to find a sympathetic doc who might help you out, but the odds are stacked against you.
If you want to stock antibiotics, you’re going to have to find another way. Following are three ways I’ve bought over the counter antibiotics.
1 – Buying Antibiotics Online
This approach is a bit of a cheat, because “technically” it does involve a prescription (that’s how they’re legally distributed), but you don’t have to visit or talk with the doctor. While it’s not physically “over the counter” it is the same idea – buying them online.
Jase Medical is an example of this service. They market themselves as a business that provides people who are preparing for a catastrophe, pandemic, foreign travel, etc. with a variety of different antibiotics.
Jase Medical is not a scam. I tried the service and received the medication.
This service is great because you can just log on to your computer or phone, go through the online consultation (a series of questions), and then the doctor reviews your answers and you receive approval for the antibiotics which are then promptly mailed to you.
According to their website the consultation requires you to “Fill out our simple online form for an evaluation from a board-certified physician.”
See the screenshot below as an example of the types of questions asked:
Their service is available to everyone in the United States and Canada. It’s fully legal because they contract with physicians who are licensed to prescribe medications in your area and they comply with all governing medical laws.
So, while it technically requires a prescription, it’s not the type of prescription that most people are accustomed to obtaining. It’s easy.
There is a downside to this approach, however – cost. You are unlikely to get your insurance to cover their services. You have to pay out of pocket, and that’s where they make their money.
As of this writing, Jase Medical charges $259.95 USD for the following antibiotics:
- Metronidazole 30-500mg Tablets
- Azithromycin 6-250mg Tablets
- Amoxicillin-Clavulanate 28-875/125mg Tablets
- Ciprofloxacin 28-500mg Tablets
- Doxycycline 120-100mg Capsules
That price includes their booklet and case. Canadian orders for the same assortment costs $435.95 CAD.
Expensive? Yes. Worth it? That depends on the results of your SHTF plan, your medical conditions, and how much you’re willing to spend.
2 – Buy Them in Another Country
Every time I travel to Mexico, I’m surprised by what can be purchased over the counter. Antibiotics? Check. Prozac? No problem. Valium? Ritalin? Viagra? Steroids? All of that.
To be sure, these are advertised in tourist destinations and what is available in one area of Mexico may not be available in another area. I have found drugs of this type available over the counter in Puerto Vallarta and Playa del Carmen. A trip to Oaxaca did not yield any drug stores that would sell these without a prescription (though many pharmacies have someone who can prescribe).
Is there a catch? Yes.
It’s not that these drugs don’t work (they do, I’ve tried them). It’s that bringing them back to the United States without a prescription could yield legal problems. According to an article from Very Well Health:
You are allowed to bring prescription medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from Mexico into the United States for your personal use. But there is a limit. In general, you may bring up to 50 dosage units into the U.S. without a prescription.https://www.verywellhealth.com/prescription-drugs-from-mexico-2966765
That prescription must be from a U.S.-based doctor.
It is not an uncommon practice for people living near the border with Mexico who have limited funds/insurance and need lower-cost prescription drugs to hop across the border for them and return home.
Another way to obtain antibiotics through travel is to speak with your physician in advance of travel and ask for antibiotics in case you encounter digestion problems (like traveler’s diarrhea). Azithromycin is often used to treat traveler’s diarrhea and many doctors will prescribe it as a “just in case” prescriptions when you travel.
My doctor has done it before for me. I didn’t need the medication, so I stored it after the trip with my other medical preps.
3 – Buy Fish Antibiotics
Anyone that has been in the prepping circles for any length of time is familiar with the idea of buying fish antibiotics for human use. This is the easiest approach, no? You go to your local pet supply store pick some off the shelf.
Does this also have a catch? Of course – safety concerns. Are fish antibiotics safe for humans? Good luck finding an exact answer to that question.
The problem is that fish antibiotics are not regulated by the FDA, so there’s no guarantee what you’re taking is what the label says it is. For this reason, and because you’re not first consulting a doctor on the need for antibiotics, most people advise against using fish antibiotics.
Is this just medical professionals being overly cautious? Perhaps. In other cases, like a Pharmacy Times article arguing against it, it’s logical to assume these groups have a vested interest in keeping people coming to the pharmacy counter and not the fish store.
However, based on another study from the National Library of Medicine, it’s clear that many humans are self-treating with fish antibiotics.
I’m not going to dispense any medical advice here. You need to talk to your own doctor for that.
However, I can tell you that if there is a serious, catastrophic event that results in my needing to take antibiotics and the only ones I have on hand are fish antibiotics – that’s better than the alternative in my mind, which is leaving the condition untreated.
Preppers would be wise to stock antibiotics once they have other essentials squared away (food, water, etc.). They should know what antibiotics treat which conditions and they should always start by trying to obtain a prescription from a prepper-friendly doctor.
Short of that, there are options to obtain antibiotics over the counter, but each comes with a potential drawback.
What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments section.
Great article! In the70’s I was in college and worked in a lab, ICN Pharmaceuticals, as a lab assistant. The researchers I worked with and for and later veterinarians ALL told me these are the same things big pharma wants you to overpay for. I’ve been using them for 50 years without a problem and trust me, they have taken care of various medical issues for a heck of a lot cheaper than the people who don’t even want us to buy Vitamin C without a prescription.