Thursday 19 June 2014

IV therapy. On Demand. But only if you're hung over, a celebrity or wealthy.

Some days you see a news story and it is hard to not end up angry. A while ago on my local news there was a story about The Remedy Room. This spa in New Orleans is offering IV treatments for the hung over, or those who just want a boost. This isn't the first time I've heard of one of these clinics in the US. I've also heard of them in other countries as well. Individuals can walk in and be hooked up for a reasonable price of US$149. You can top up with pain relievers and a variety of vitamin concoctions.

In one centre in the US if you come in with a hangover you can have IV Zofran (Ondansteron) an antinausea drug, added to your drip. Others offer a travelling service that will come to you. Whilst another sits in a bus outside nightclubs in Las Vegas.

Every time I see one of these stories my blood boils.

Why am I angry? As a patient with Dysautonomia I, and many of my fellow patients, have to beg to be given a litre of saline, despite dehydration and hypovolemia. Despite it known to be an effective treatment. We are told it's dangerous. That your body can become reliant on saline infusions. That our veins will give out. Presentation at an emergency room following a collapse is not a guarantee of IV saline and many patients can attest to being sent home as dehydrated and symptomatic as when they were wheeled in through the automatic front door.

It took 3mths of frustration and searching, for my GP to find a clinic for me to obtain regular IV Saline infusions, despite a medical need. Many patients simply give up on sourcing saline as they simply don't have the energy to fight the system. Ondesrerone is incredibly expensive here in Australia, especially if you have to take it multiple times a day. Yet have a hangover and it's popped right in. In the US there is an IV saline shortage. As pointed out by Was This In the Plan? there is also a shortage of the ingredients that are used to make life sustaining TPN and yet this too can be purchased.

But in these spas, and many others, you can walk in and be hooked up, if you have the funds.

It is not only the US. The UK and Australia also have IV spas. A quick check on Google brings up multiple spas or wellness centres in Australia where you can organise vitamin infused IV therapy.

If you're after "Energising vitality" they can help you out. If you have cold or are simply stressed, others are happy to help. Others speak about a range of health issues from migraine to immune deficiencies, but again price is a factor placing them out of range for many consumers. These products are seen as a saleable commodity, on top of any therapeutic use. With single infusions up for offer for a casual few hundred dollars.

And yesterday this photo came up in my timeline.

Ryan Phillipe and Paulina Slagter lounging around having a casual IV treatment. To say that I am an angry may be an understatement. They are the picture of self-indulgent wank. A culture that mocks and trivialise those who need such treatments, but are unable to access them either through a lack of funds, lack of physical resources (the shortages described above), or medical opposition.

The repugnant Hangover Heaven bus even sells merchandise to commemorate your experience.

IV therapy isn't the latest trend of celebrities. For so many it is a necessary, and life sustaining therapy. Having been in the position of having to nearly beg for a bag of saline in a hospital emergency room, despite severe dehydration, I can not feel anything but anger. My need is not because of a night spent partying, or because I need a cool pick me up, but because my body refuses to hold oral fluids even with pharmacological help. Because I become so dehydrated I can't stand. I can't speak. I can't lift my hand or function.

People like Mr Phillipe and these spas, trivialise what many patients around the world are going through simply to function at a basic level. They trivialise the struggle to access care. And they show once more that money is the key to healthcare.

They minimise the risks that are associated with these procedures such as infiltration, collapsing veins, infection and vitamin toxicity.

They minimise and make mockery of the many patients who cannot access care.

They minimise and make mockery of the many patients who would love to never see another IV needle again.

They also take financial advantage of patients who in desperation turn to these services for help.

The further commodification of medical therapies thanks to celebrities and spas promoting these therapies as fashionable or trending, mean that they will be placed even further out of the reach of the patients that require them to function or sustain life. And that is unacceptable.


Please head on over to Was This in the Plan? and read:
They choose vanity. We choose life.


  1. Excellent post Michelle. You cover all aspects of why this is so abhorrent. And so unfair. It still horrifies me how difficult it is for the majority of dysautonomia patients to access IV saline therapy. Why must everything be such a fight?

    1. Thanks Rach. I've seen celebs doing it before but this picture just rankles me. I saw it late last night and still this morning I couldn't get it out of my head. I'd started a post about a couple of other places that do it for hangovers a while back, but it was just the impetus I needed to finish it and push post. Sick must fight for it. Hungover or wealthy/celebrity and they hand it over. It's not right.

  2. Thanks for picking this up, it's such a worrying trend & when your the parent of a child who relies on IV nutrition for survival it's frankly sickening - thanks for linking to my blog post on this important topic xx

    1. You're very welcome, Stephanie. It's such a disgrace. Sadly, when celebrities put up pictures like this it just pushes the trend. The more people who know about this the better. xx

  3. The person giving the IV must still be a registered nurse and made a diagnosis? In the US, I believe the legality of this is borderline at best. I have always had the same problem getting IV fluid as the same reasons you experienced. I would say the "IV spa" is a rare thing... I dont even think it is legal in many states?

    What I see as a much bigger issue is the over medication with pain meds and meds like zofran. It is such a big problem that many doctors just wont prescribe them. I get a small ration of zofran each month, and no meds for pain. I end up needing to go to the ER every couple weeks for IV hydration and IV zofran, simply because they refuse to prescribe me a thirty day supply of zofran.
    Crazy broken system! Dont let the celebs get to you, that is such a small minority... much bigger fish to fry!

  4. its strange i can get iv saline in my local er and even when i needed in out patient surgery for my 2 liters weekly at the local hospital. i have since found a pcp whom does the iv vitamins and saline in his office. i do not live in a big community city either. i am in california and saline is considered a conservative treatment. doctors can write the orders in such a way for pots and dehydration. i am sorry you have such trouble getting. maybe if one of your doctors has hosp privileges they can write the order to be done in the local hospital. it may be helpful to have a port if you get frequently and your veins stinky. also too if you can show medical peer review articles it may help bolster your case.

    1. update on fda shortage saline

  5. ugh sorry to hear it's such a battle for you, when these guys can just hook up whenever they like


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