People are paying $170 for medical treatments at ‘IV bars’—and they don’t work

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Since 2015, a Texas company has been charging customers between $100 and $250 per session to be hooked to an IV of vitamins and herbs to treat diseases like cancer, multiple sclerosis, and congestive heart failure. But there is a problem: there is no proof they actually work.

IV therapy has been featured on health websites like Gwenyth Paltrow’s GOOP for its hydrating and anti-aging benefits. But the Federal Trade Commission said Thursday that companies are not allowed to make unsupported promises about the therapy’s effectiveness when it comes to treating diseases.

“This enforcement action should send a clear message to the burgeoning IV therapy industry and sellers of all healthcare products,” Joe Simons, Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission said. “Health claims must be supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence.”

The FTC charged iV Bars, a company based in Addison, Texas, with making deceptive health claims including that its Myers Cocktail, which it sold for $125, would treat cancer, angina, cardiovascular disease, congestive heart failure, myocardial infarction, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, fibromyalgia, and neurodegenerative disorders.

The company did not respond to request for comment, but in an email sent Tuesday to iV Bars customers, Aaron K. Roberts, general manager of the franchise, clarified that scientific studies have not proven the company’s treatments are effective for any disease. iV Bar and other IV treatment companies offer their services in spa-like settings or on-the-go at events like bachelor parties or ladies night out.

“Speaking with your healthcare provider is important to make sure all aspects of your medical treatment work together,” Roberts told customers. “Things that may seem safe — like vitamins, minerals, or amino acids — may interfere with other medicines and could cause serious health risks.”

The FTC did not fine iV Bars, but the business will have to pay a $41,484 penalty if it violates the FTC order in the future.

The FTC complaint said that while the company’s “website was replete with depictions of men and women dressed in white lab coats looking through microscopes” and that the company claimed to operate a research lab staffed by medical professionals, “no such iV Bars Research Lab exists.”

Companies that inject vitamins through IV, known as “Intravenous Micro-Nutrient Therapy,” “Intravenous Vitamin Therapy,” and “Hydration Therapy,” have been on the rise in the U.S., according to the Federal Trade Commission. Not only is IV therapy not proven to be effective — it also may be less effective than taking vitamins orally as the IV administration bypasses the digestive system.

A “recovery” cocktail from iV Bars costs $175 for 15 minutes and a “Brain Focus” cocktail costs $225 for 15 minutes. A month of vitamin C supplements in pill form costs $8.99, and may be more effective, said Andrea Buhl, board-certified family nurse practitioner and senior vice president of medical programs at global provider of claims management solutions Sedgwick. In fact, it can be dangerous to insert a needle into a vein and the practice runs a risk of infection.

“If someone is looking to be healthier, and they need additional vitamins and nutrients, the best way they can get that is from a well-balanced diet,” she said.

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