In all honesty, I had no idea that these vitamin drips existed until a fellow Pharmacy friend told me about them. Touted as a “wellness” trend and an alternative medicine approach, intravenous (IV) vitamin drips claim to boost wellbeing and provide hydration therapy. They are openly offered to the public in shopping malls and the like, and celebrities like Rihanna and Kendall Jenner are doing it – which means that we should all be doing it too!
Being someone who is training to work in the healthcare industry, I naturally had quite a few thoughts (and lots of questions) on this. Here we go.
What is IV Vitamin Drip therapy?
From what I gather, it does what it says on the tin – a cocktail of vitamins (vitamin B, C, magnesium etc.) administered intravenously using a drip. According to the Alternative Medicine Review, it claims to improve general health and even treat/supplement treatment for certain conditions; from migraines to fibromyalgia, and even the common cold.
Oh hello infections, welcome to the party.
This was my number one thought when I heard about this. IV treatment carries a high risk of infection, as it is such an invasive procedure. National guidelines as well as hospital guidelines tend to advise against giving a patient IV therapy unless it is absolutely necessary, eg. IV antibiotics in a severe bacterial infection, or pain medication in terminal illness. If the IV route cannot be avoided, it is advised that the patient be given IV treatment for as short a duration as is necessary and be switched to the oral route (tablets etc) as soon as possible.
Offering healthy members of the public (not to mention immunocompromised patients or pregnant women) the chance to introduce a host of pathogens into the bloodstream by giving them an invasive procedure they don’t need? Unless you are a patient who has special requirements that include IV vitamins, what’s wrong with getting our vitamins from a balanced diet and hydrating by drinking plenty of fluids? If you ask me, it’s much safer and putting yourself at risk of an infection for something that isn’t absolutely urgently needed for survival? It’s unnecessary. We already have an antimicrobial resistance problem, and it’s very real.
The more the better?
Major selling point for delivering vitamins via the IV route – the IV route offers 100% bioavailability, which is significantly higher than anything the oral route can offer (thanks to this wonderful thing called first pass metabolism, but that’s a story for another day).
What is bioavailability? It is the the extent and rate at which the active moiety (drug or metabolite) enters systemic circulation, thereby accessing the site of action. Think of it as being a sum of money you’ve been given. If you have 100% bioavailability, you get to spend 100% of that sum of money on a paint job your house desperately needs. If you only have 50% bioavailability, you only get to spend 50% on that paint job and your wall is only half painted. 100% bioavailability sounds great, right?
Here’s the thing, vitamins don’t really work this way.
There are two main classes of vitamins – water-soluble and fat-soluble. Water soluble vitamins (eg. vitamin B, C) simply get excreted in your urine if levels in your body get too high. You pee ’em out. That’s all that happens. Fat soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E, K) get stored in places like the liver instead. The body harbours these and slowly releases them as and when they are needed. Having too much, ie. toxicity can be a very real problem. So no, it is not a “the more the better” situation.
Who is getting these drips?
I don’t know how the process works, but I hope customers are medically screened for suitability before being given these drips. Are there any exclusion criteria? Is there a minimum or maximum age to qualify as suitable? What if the customer has a condition they are unaware of? What if the cocktail of vitamins and minerals causes an internal imbalance and does more harm than good? What if the patient is on medication that would interact with the vitamins in the drip? Giving vitamin K to someone on Warfarin certainly wouldn’t bode well.
Is any of this regulated?
I genuinely don’t know the answer to this. Is there a standard for the manufacture of these vitamin drip IV bags? Who decides what goes into them exactly? How are they being stored and handled? What if they cause a major adverse event in someone who already has a pre-existing condition, or even someone who doesn’t? Who takes the responsibility and pays for the consequences?
Have you tried IV vitamin therapy? I’d love to hear your thoughts, and what your experience was like. Even if you haven’t, put your thoughts in the comments below! Until next time.
DISCLAIMER: J is not a qualified healthcare professional. This post is intended as an opinion post only, anything you read here should NOT take precedence over a medical professional’s advice. Please consult a healthcare professional before you try IV vitamin drips, particularly if you have a pre-existing condition or if you are taking prescription medicines. Please seek medical help from a healthcare professional immediately if you are experiencing adverse effects after having a vitamin drip. This post discusses the general practice of IV vitamin drip therapy, it is not aimed at a specific company that manufactures or provides vitamin drips. References have been included as links in the text.