‘Intravenous micro-nutrient therapy’ is gaining momentum in natural health care — buoyed by celebrity endorsements and praise from aesthetic professionals that push vitamin drips as a cure-all for the stressed, the anxious, the depressed, the dehydrated, the immune-weakened and the overweight.
Proponents say IV vitamin therapy delivers a high concentration of vitamins, minerals and amino acids directly to the body’s cells, bypassing the digestive system to allow more rapid and effective absorption of nutrients than could be achieved by swallowing them.
Under the radar ‘beauty clinics’
To hook up to a drip line, customers must visit a specialised clinic or a spa where trained professional will take the medical history and suggest the most suitable drip. The popularity of the procedure, however, attracts untrained fly-by-night ‘beauticians’ who seek to cash in on an easy procedure.
In prestigious Mayfair, in the basement of a residential property, one so-called clinic is seemingly thriving.
“This is a residential area so we can’t advertise any business activities”, explains the owner of the ‘clinic’. She continues, “but it’s fine as we know all our clients personally.”
The reason I was invited to the so-called clinic was the lack of staff and the expansion of the operation. As a qualified medic, they were interested in bringing me in. “We have only one nurse at the moment doing IV vitamin injections. Her time is extremely limited so we have to make our customers wait. Then the nurse would come in for an hour and do several injections in a row – about 6 in one hour.” She changes her tone to more business-like: “So you said you are free on Monday? Shall I book you some clients?”
The owner of the business assures me: “it’s completely safe, I even administered it at home to my friend and vice versa”. The well-looked-after woman in her early thirties, it must be said, has no medical background or qualifications; at least not on her business card that is riddled with some nondescript abbreviations.
The appearance of the clinic and lack of paperwork raise the alarm bells
Showing my interest, I arrange for a first visit to the clinic. I stress that I am not to perform any injections on this occasion. That is when it becomes apparent that the word Clinic is a gross exaggeration. No reception, medical pamphlets, formal booking system, certificates on the walls or any patient documentation for that matter. Two empty armchairs in the small waiting area signal that there are no visitors today.
As a qualified nurse, I brought my certificates to the first meeting. “Oh, I am actually not sure what I should be looking at.” Replies the owner. “You know what, I trust you. If you say you are qualified, then I am sure you are.”
The procedure room looks more like a massage parlour than like a clinic – no sanitisation instructions, certificates, not even pharma cabinets. The massage table and an empty ladder shelf in the corner take up most of the room’s space. “Here we have our treatment room. We have a shower here too,” she shows me around. “Nurse couldn’t come today but she will be in tomorrow. If you can come tomorrow, the nurse will be able to show you everything and you can even try one injection yourself, it’s only £85”. I am offered a £20 pay for every administered injection.
Having some genuine concerns, I ask about the particulars of the duty. “No, the nurse doesn’t have a uniform, she comes in in her casual clothes. Should she have a uniform?” And not waiting for my response, she replies, “Yes, I suppose she has to… Yes, the nurse brings all disposables and everything she needs for the procedure with her. We provide the vitamin shots.”
The following day the so-called clinic looks different. Upon my arrival, the nurse is sitting in the waiting area, dressed in casual attire including an outdoor puffed coat. The owner of the ‘clinic’ is not yet in, I am told. I am also told I’d better ask the owner about the vitamins administered. With strong Spanish accent, I was informed that “She knows better and can tell more about it. I don’t know much.” We are interrupted by the loud and cheery entrance of the owner. She walks in together with the clients – three women ranging in age and appearance chirruping away in Russian. Everything about them suggests the atmosphere of one massive extended hen party.
The businesswoman, wearing red soles and black leggings with black top reminiscent of a Catwoman costume, ‘quarterbacks the situation’. She introduces me to the clients and sets the order of injections. One client has to rush away so she is first in the queue. She speaks very good English -no accent- for an ‘Eastern European’.
The nurse disappears in the therapy room together with the boss, for a private talk. I start a friendly chat with the first client. I found out that this is her first time doing IV Vitamin injection. As to the reason why she is seeking the treatment, she comments: “anything that ‘the owner’s friend’ tells me to do, I do. Anything to not to age.” I note to myself that the advice given doesn’t seem to be working (or was not allowed to take effect). The woman in her early forties looks tired; her skin is saggy and lacks elasticity. Her eyes adorned with dark circles and wrinkles. The woman enquires about my qualifications and what I do for a living. She shows interest in how I am maintaining my nurse qualifications to make sure I ‘still have it’ – a question that never crossed the mind of the business owner.
Risking your health
When the owner surfaces again, I am informed the nurse doesn’t ‘want many eyes looking at her’ while she prepares for the procedure and the first client goes in. We wait outside for a few minutes before entering the therapy room. The nurse – wearing a light brown jumper with diamantes and blue latex gloves – is about to insert the butterfly catheter.
“How are you feeling?” The owner asks the client, “All good? Are you usually scared of injections or blood? Okay, it’s good then. Do you have any allergies?” she asks finally. The client replies carelessly “I don’t know. I suppose not, only some intolerances but not allergies.” The owner seemingly relaxes, ignoring the fact that intolerance and allergy are often synonyms. “Oh, it’s all good: It will be fine. We have even administered it to each other with my friend. When we just received the product we were so excited and we didn’t have a nurse to do it for us.”
The lack of any anamnesis – a patient’s account of their medical history – or initial consultation is a disturbing sight to anyone with a medical background. Especially since the glutathione – one of the main components – should be avoided in people with milk protein allergies and in those who have received an organ transplant. It is not to be taken by people with liver or kidney dysfunctions.
Finding new clients
The procedure is over in not more than 5 – 7 minutes and we decide to wait outside while the client and the nurse wrap up. The precious waiting time is not wasted. Now, a new potential client appeared in the waiting area. She has to stand -no seats left-, fully clothed in her lavender colour wool coat. The owner brings out the box with the Glutax and starts her pitch. The punch line is the price: £85 for one injection. The potential client seems interested, quoting Harley street clinic who charge £300 per each drip.
Collaborations with ‘beauty bloggers’ are not ruled out
Clearly, the women in the circle can’t claim lack of money. What they do appear to be lacking is responsibility, understanding of risks associated with procedures. The prospect client seems interested and suggests the clinic contacts her sister who is a ‘beauty blogger (real expert!) with 50 K following’. “She is really good and is followed by a lot of people. One of her last clients was Dr. Sebagh, so she is very serious. I’ll put you in touch and maybe you could work together on mutually beneficial grounds,” she says before leaving.
Will the beauty blogger have knowledge or expertise to ascertain the risks and expose murky practices, is another question entirely.
All in all, I spend not more than 25 minutes at the ‘clinic’ and promise to find out more about the insurance I would need to obtain in order to administer an IV to patients before leaving. Judging by business owner’s expression, this thought seems to have triggered some Aha moment.
Knowing what are you about to inject
The IV injection offered in the clinic is Glutax 5S Micro Advance, allegedly manufactured by Dermedical Skin Sciences.
I have contacted the Dermedical Skin Sciences – using their ‘official’ email address – enquiring whether the product is FDA approved for use in the EU and how one can get hold of the product. The following response came from yahoo.com mailbox within 1 hour:
Hi we only have 1 exclusive distributor located in Asia which is from Manila Philippines. We have heard a lot of counterfeits are in the market now that is why we recently signed up an agreement with GMED Marketing to take care of the distribution in Asia Pacific particularly in the Philippines…
Glutax is dangerous
Beauty: IV vitamin drip Glutax 5GS Fake claims report
According to the recent Ateneo Assay Test or Philippine Institute of Pure and Applied Chemistry (PIPAC), the so-called high dose Glutax 3G and 5G samples contained as little as 0.25 grams or 250mg only of true-glutathione.
It must be further noted that some of Glutax products were included in the Philippines FDA Warning List circulated in November 2016 as ‘these pose potential danger of injury to the consuming public.’
The company address allegedly producing Glutax leads to the La Rovedine leisure-golf centre in Noverasco di Opera, with customer reviews along the lines of ‘great sports centre, artificial turf kept well.’ Anyone willing to find registration details, peer review papers, test results, etc of Dermedical Skin Sciences S.P.A online may be disappointed at the lack of any records.
“Intravenous Vitamins Infusions were pioneered in the 1960s by Baltimore Dr. John Myers, and have gained increasing popularity in recent years. It must be remembered, however, that they are a medical treatment and should only be carried out in a clinical setting by adequately trained staff.
“Although generally safe, as with any medical treatment there are risks involved; from bruising and inflammation of the veins to more serious, life-threatening consequences such as sepsis (blood poisoning), anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction) and air embolism (air bubbles in the bloodstream which can travel to your brain, heart, or lungs and cause a heart attack, stroke, or respiratory failure). Besides, products such as saline – used for IV drips – are prescription only. So if the IV shot was indeed diluted with saline, the question will be how it was obtained.
Dr. Shirin continues, “Often patients have been naïve and opted for a cheaper price over quality. It concerns me that the public has no idea about the risks and side effects associated with treatments such as this. One should never blindly trust procedure or ‘clinic’ that a friend recommended. Always enquire more and make sure they have proven track record.”
“When considering any kind of medical treatment it is imperative to make sure that you use a doctor or qualified practitioner who is fully insured and has the medical expertise to keep you safe. Always schedule a consultation first and raise any questions or concerns you have there. If you are satisfied, book the procedure.”
If you are concerned about beauty treatments or want to file a complaint, check out Safety in Beauty website.