RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
Let's hear about the promise of warding off illness and getting more energy with an injection of water and vitamins straight into your bloodstream. It's the trendy thing to do among some celebrities. Tanya English of WHYY's health show, "The Pulse," checked it out.
TAUNYA ENGLISH, BYLINE: There are infusion spas with names like Hangover Heaven or the Remedy Room. In New Orleans, Las Vegas, even Ibiza, Spain, those businesses cater to tourists who party hard.
JASON HARTMAN: So you saw the waiting room, obviously.
ENGLISH: Here in Philadelphia at a shop called RestoreIV, Dr. Jason Hartman sees a lot of overworked business.
HARTMAN: We are bigger, better, faster culture. I want to be a better me. You want to be a better you. And I think this trend reflects that.
ENGLISH: RestoreIV offers clients high-dose vitamins with a needle and an IV bag to help you detox or boost your immunity or just turn up your glow. Hartman says the basic cocktail includes vitamin C, zinc, B vitamins. And if you have a headache, the doctor might add a little magnesium.
HARTMAN: In chronic diseases, these things can be depleted with, you know, just a stressful lifestyle. And if they become deficient enough, it alters your internal pharmacology enough to possibly manifest as a symptom or a disease.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: All right, so I'm going to put a tourniquet on. We'll make sure you have a good vein.
ENGLISH: One longtime patient is a Philadelphia attorney with two kids and an exhausting travel schedule. When she wants to prevent a cold, Yana Shapiro comes in for the drip called immunity protection.
YANA SHAPIRO: Anything to avoid (laughter) antibiotics...
ENGLISH: Or being out of commission?
SHAPIRO: ...Or being out of commission, absolutely.
ENGLISH: For 15 minutes, Shapiro gets to just sit back in a big, comfy chair.
SHAPIRO: I take this time as me time to relax and, you know, kick back and close my eyes for a couple of minutes.
ENGLISH: IV treatments cost from 150 to 200 dollars. And at RestoreIV, everyone pays the doctor's office directly. The treatments are not generally covered by insurance. But if you mostly eat your kale and you're quinoa, why would you need a boost of vitamins delivered straight to your bloodstream? More traditional doctors say you probably don't. A healthy gut takes in the nutrients we need. Ather Ali is a doctor at Yale University. If IV infusion makes people feel better, he suspects it's a placebo effect.
ATHER ALI: When your child falls and scrapes their knees and you give them a kiss, there's value in that.
ENGLISH: Ali and his colleagues tested a well-known IV vitamin treatment on 30 people with fibromyalgia. Half the study participants got IV vitamins. The other half got a saline solution without vitamins.
ALI: The interesting finding was that everyone got better.
ENGLISH: People reported less pain and said they were better able to do the things they needed to do every day. Ali says, if a treatment is helping someone, that may be reason to use it, even if the fix is a placebo. But he says if people just want to feel better...
ALI: Go exercise for 30 minutes, and you'll probably get more out of that.
ENGLISH: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not regulate or approve vitamin drips, so cautious doctors say know the risk before the needle goes in. For NPR News, I'm Taunya English in Philadelphia.
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