A new way to get vitamins is popping up all over Long Island — not from fruits and vegetables or pharmacies, but in sleek, spa-like venues where nurses pump nutrients from an IV bag directly into customers’ veins.
The treatments, popularized by celebrities including Rihanna, Simon Cowell and Gwyneth Paltrow, involve administering vitamins, electrolytes and other nutrients intravenously through a thin tube inserted in a client’s arm. The infusions are marketed as helping to improve energy levels, immunity, brain function, athletic performance, weight loss and hangover recovery, among other promised effects.
Skeptics, whose ranks include medical doctors and nutrition researchers, say such treatments are not backed by convincing scientific evidence and can even be harmful if substances build up to dangerous levels in the body or if the fluids are prepared or given in unsanitary conditions. Still, some customers and health care providers swear by IV vitamin infusions, saying they offer relief from ailments that have resisted other treatments.
Jennifer Hofmann, 47, a physician assistant who is director of didactic education and an associate professor at Pace University in Manhattan, said she decided to try an infusion at The DRIPBaR Long Island in Commack more than a month ago to see if it would ease the dehydration symptoms she sometimes experiences after doing vigorous yoga classes in heated rooms. The treatment worked, relieving muscle cramps and giving her “more energy and more clarity,” she said. She has since returned for more.
“I teach pharmacology, and I know the power of the placebo,” but that’s not what this is, she said. “I find it to be very helpful.”
At the Commack center, all treatments are prepared in sterile conditions and delivered by registered nurses, and all customers undergo health screenings to make sure they’re good candidates for infusions, said Charlie Massimo, a Deer Park-based financial adviser and co-owner of The DRIPBaR Long Island, part of a Massachusetts-based franchise company. The center requires lab work for certain infusions. Other Long Island providers said they take the same steps to protect patients.
“We have an IV drip for just about every lifestyle, whether you’re an athlete, a busy parent … or someone who just wants to stay in good health,” said Massimo, who said he has been getting IV vitamin drips for years. The center, he said, takes precautions “to make sure that everyone’s suitable for a drip and do everything possible to protect them to make sure they’re getting the proper drip.”
Another DRIPBaR is set to open in a few months on Franklin Avenue in Garden City, with more locations to follow over the next three years, Massimo said.
On Long Island, the treatments are offered at more than 50 spas, doctors’ offices and other facilities throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties and by health care providers who offer IV infusions in clients’ homes.
Fees can range from a little over $100 to more than $300 per session depending on the drip, though some providers offer discounts. A treatment typically takes between 30 and 60 minutes. The services generally are not covered by insurance.
Infusions “are marketed as regular spa and beauty treatments, long-term health boosters, hangover remedies and treatments for jet lag,” the research company IBISWorld said in a 17-page report on the industry in May. The treatment’s benefits “have been questioned by some medical experts,” but the venues “have become increasingly popular,” IBISWorld said.
The IV hydration center industry includes the spa-like centers known as IV bars or vitamin clinics as well as doctors’ offices and other medical facilities that administer intravenous prescription medicines and accept insurance. Overall, the industry has seen revenues rise by 60% from nearly $1.24 billion in 2014 to a projection of nearly $2 billion this year in the United States, IBISWorld reported.
Total IV hydration center industry revenue is likely to gradually increase by about 1.3% a year to $2.1 billion by 2028, in part due to “increasing attention from celebrities and other affluent people, as well as rising interest in health and wellness in a post-pandemic era,” the U.S.- and Australia-based company said.
Nearly a quarter — 23% — of the industry consists of “nonmedical” IV treatments such as vitamins, IBISWorld reported. Medical hydration and the intravenous administration of medicines such as antibiotics make up about the rest of the industry: about 47% and 30%, respectively, according to IBISWorld. The industry employs more than 9,800 people at more than 550 facilities, IBISWorld reported.
IV vitamin treatments have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. In 2021 the federal agency warned that in recent years it found IV fluids being prepared in unsanitary conditions at two clinics offering IV vitamin infusions — one in Indiana and the other in California — as well as an oncology clinic administering prescription medications in New York City.
Health care providers who offer vitamin infusions say the body absorbs nutrients more efficiently when they are delivered directly into the bloodstream instead of going through the digestive system. But that could potentially backfire, nutrition experts warn.
The digestive system plays an important role in making sure the body doesn’t get overloaded by excessive doses of nutrients, said Dr. Zhaoping Li, chief of the division of clinical nutrition at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles.
The human body needs only small amounts of vitamins, which can be obtained from food, and the digestive system does a good job of making sure the right amount of nutrients get absorbed, she said. By contrast, she said, too-high doses of vitamin C can cause kidney stones, and overloading on a fat-soluble vitamin such as vitamin A can lead to liver problems, she said.
Most people would be better off consuming chicken broth to get electrolytes and other nutrients, which would avoid the risk of “serious medical complications” that can occur with IV infusions, she said.
Dr. Ken Fujioka, past president of the National Board of Physician Nutrition Specialists, said of the benefits reported by clients, “I would wager that this is a placebo effect, I would find it hard to believe it’s any real, true benefit …. It just seems so crazy to me, that people want to pay to get stuck with a needle to get something that they can just eat.”
He continued, “Unless you are missing large parts of your intestine or have some kind of severe malabsorption problem … there’s no scientific data that would say, ‘Yeah, this would be a good thing to do.’ ”
Hospitals and other medical facilities provide IV infusions of nutrients to certain patients whose medical conditions interfere with eating, digestion or absorption, and if they’re deemed medically necessary, those treatments would generally be covered by insurance, Li said. The three hospital and medical networks based on Long Island — Catholic Health in Rockville Centre, Northwell Health in New Hyde Park and Stony Brook Medicine — declined to comment on the vitamin treatments offered at IV hydration centers.
Despite the skepticism among some medical specialists, IV infusions have loyal adherents who say the treatments have made a difference in their lives.
The first time Hofmann went to DRIPBaR in Commack, she brought along her fiance, Scott Eger, who lives with Hofmann in East Northport and owns a diesel truck and bus repair company.
Eger, 59, said he “thought it was kind of gimmicky,” but he had been feeling run-down after long days working on engines and running his business, so he decided to try one.
‘Felt so much better’
“Two days later, I felt phenomenal,” he recalled. “I just had more energy. After work, I was going down to my boat, I was going into our garden and doing stuff in our garden, and I just felt so much better. That lasted like two weeks … I haven’t changed really anything else, so it definitely correlates with the IV infusions.”
Pamela Roberts, 49, who lives in St. Albans, Queens, went to RxIV Infusions in West Hempstead seeking treatment for body aches and digestive problems, and help with weight loss.
Vitamin pills often cause headaches and make her feel nauseated and dizzy, she said. “I found that my body responded much better when I did infusions,” she said. “You feel like you have more energy … like you could do anything.”
Robert Davis, a registered nurse and co-owner of RxIV Infusions, said he started offering in-home IV treatments in 2020. He opened the West Hempstead center in early 2022 and a Huntington Station location in July. “It’s becoming more and more popular,” he said of IV infusions. “If I’m comparing business from 2020 to 2023, it’s literally night and day, I quadrupled my clientele.”
If a client who needs fluids due to a gastrointestinal ailment or hangover goes to a hospital emergency room, they are likely to face long waits and end up paying as much in copays and deductibles as they would spend at an infusion center, he said, “where you can utilize our service and be in and out.”
As for research on IV vitamin infusions, he said, “you can find studies that will guide you either way.” He said, “if an IV infusion company is doing their due diligence and screening the patients thoroughly,” the treatments have “immense benefits” and “no negative effects.”
Fatigue and other ailments are so common they can seem “normal,” said Lauren Wallace, a registered nurse who offers mobile IV services through her company, Halo Mobile IV, in addition to working in an intensive care unit at Stony Brook University Hospital.
“We’ve gotten accustomed to being fatigued,” she said. But, she said, “that is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong.”
Wallace, 34, who lives in Sayville, said she first tried IV infusions in 2020, after spending a year and a half going to at least eight doctors in an effort to treat the Rocky Mountain spotted fever infection she contracted from a tick bite in 2018. She was taking numerous medications, with some prescribed to treat the disease and others to mitigate side effects, she said.
“I tried everything and I was not getting significant relief until I changed my lifestyle,” she recalled. Wallace said after altering her diet, making other lifestyle changes and starting IV vitamin infusions, “I felt better, and I felt more like myself prior to getting sick.”
Studies have shown the benefits of vitamin C and other nutrients, Wallace said. Those who dismiss IV vitamin treatment “are looking at the wrong research,” she said. “As an ICU nurse and as a patient with a chronic disease … if they need help finding some research, I can show it to them.”
In addition to IV infusions, Wallace also offers help with improving diet and exercise, working at an office in Huntington and in clients’ homes. “A lot of patients say that their sleep-wake cycles are better, they’re not getting sick as often and they generally feel better,” with benefits that include reduced inflammation, she said.
Among her clients is Tiffany Salcedo, 34, a high school Spanish teacher who lives in Hicksville. Salcedo decided to try an infusion by Wallace in spring 2021, after coming down with COVID for the second time and experiencing fever, extreme fatigue, coughing spells, difficulty breathing and a headache.
“I thought, ‘let me reach out and see if it actually works,’” she recalled. Her headache started to ease about 10 minutes after the infusion, she said, and “probably the next day I did a complete 180 on all the symptoms I had, so that sold me.”
WHAT TO KNOW
- New IV bars offer vitamin infusions in spa-like settings.
- IV hydration is a $2 billion industry, with vitamin clinics making up nearly a quarter of it.
- Medical experts question the treatments, but they have loyal customers who say infusions have boosted their well-being.