BROWN Thomas has defended offering IV vitamin drip treatments at its new store in Dundrum for up to €950 – despite doctors and scientists raising serious concerns about potential health risks.
K company Get A Drip is an independent operator providing the service at the new €12m Brown Thomas, in Dundrum Shopping Centre, Dublin. Customers can book appointments to get ‘booster injections’ and IV drips, which it is claimed provide anti-ageing, detoxifying and hydration benefits.
A spokesperson for the company said it “provides an alternative, more efficient and cost-effective way for people to supplement their diet in order to meet the extensive list of vitamins and minerals required to maintain optimum bodily function.”
They further claimed that as the drips are not administered within a hospital environment, “there is a much lower risk of pathogen bacteria”.
Brown Thomas, meanwhile, said it has received a “great reaction” from shoppers.
However, health experts including GPs, nutritionists and scientists have condemned the service, with some describing it as “pseudoscience” and “very expensive urine”.
Dr Trish Horgan, a doctor based in Cork, said the medical community is “appalled” by a retailer making such treatments available.
“Every process and every procedure carries a risk and that’s why, as GPs, we outline the pros and cons of each procedure,” she told Independent.ie.
“Who is the target audience here? When they call it treatment, it suggests there’s a diagnosis and an abnormality has been detected. Who is taking responsibility for this? Brown Thomas is not the correct environment for puncturing someone’s vein and it’s not without its risks.”
Scientist Dr David Robert Grimes described it as a “terrible idea” and highlighted how people in the past have died following vitamin infusions, including former Playboy model Janna Rasskazova.
“If you have a vitamin deficiency that is medically diagnosed, then the correct person to correct that is a doctor in a doctor’s surgery, not someone in a department store.
“Brown Thomas is a trusted retailer and we’ve already seen during the pandemic how the public having a poor understanding of science and medicine has led to terrible consequences.
“I have seen these drips pitched at cancer sufferers in the past, who are hugely at risk if they get a bad IV line. It can be potentially harmful. Social media influencers have been pushing it and it’s all a bit middle-class.”
Get a Drip’s website states it has administered over 35,000 IV vitamin drips and booster shots from their premium London and Dublin locations.
It said the clinics are recognised by the Department of Health in the UK and their medical staff are either doctors registered with the Irish Medical Council or nurses registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland.
Some of the drips offered include a detox drip for €140, an anti-ageing drip for €225 and a “limitless drip” for €950.
Dr Ray Walley, Associate Clinical Professor of General Practice at University College Dublin, said vitamin drips could cause “significant harm” if given to the wrong person.
Orla Walsh, a dietician with the Dublin Nutrition Centre, said IV drips should be used as a “last resort” when it comes to improving people’s access to nutrition.
She told RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne: “With regards to what is on offer, it’s saline, it’s water and the idea is improved hydration. But you can do that orally and you can do that over 24 hours and it’s significantly cheaper.
“There is a huge mark-up as well on the saline bags themselves. They have vitamins and nutrients added but a lot of them are what we call water soluble, meaning that if our body has enough it would just urinate out the excess. makes for very expensive urine.”
She that warning some nutrient bags contain potassium and could be potentially fatal for someone who has a high level of potassium in their body.
“So there is a risk when you give a needle into the arm. There are potential serious risks here as well and the risk award just isn’t there because there is no evidence to say there is reward, ” she added.
Richard Chambers, founder and CEO of Get A Drip, said the company has offered services globally with “nil adverse effects”.
The company has three chief medical officers across three countries, five registered doctors, 21 registered nurses, four nutritionists, a pharmacist and a dietician.
“In Ireland, registered nurses are giving [the services] under a prescription from the chief medical officer and the registered doctor as well, who is also a GP in Ireland,” he told RTÉ’s Radio 1.
It (the service) is already available across private healthcare practices across Ireland and the UK. We are putting it out (service) to everyone, not just a select few who have money.”
He disagreed that the drips are potentially dangerous and said the company does a full medical screening where customers have to answer 40 questions in a medical questionnaire.
When asked about the prices being charged, he said it was justifiable as they have to meet the cost of rent, insurance, the cost of employing medical professionals and the general costs of running a business.
In a statement, Brown Thomas said: “While the treatments offered by Get A Drip are relatively new to Ireland and Brown Thomas, they have been available in retail environments in the United States and the UK for quite some time.
“Information on the treatments are provided by qualified professionals and all customers who avail of the service will be fully assessed for their suitability for such services before every treatment.
“Following the opening of the Dundrum store last Thursday, we have a great reaction from customers that has matched demand for this service in other markets.”
Get A Drip claimed research has shown that oral supplements are often full of fillers that are bad for your health, whereas the substances it manufactures and provides “contain absolutely no fillers or additives.”
However, members of the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute (INDI) have “serious concerns” and said IV infusions are not necessary for health.
“There is no medical need for an otherwise healthy individual to receive vitamins and minerals through a vein (IV),” a spokesperson said.
“Getting your nutritional requirements through food and vitamin supplements orally (eg. in certain cases such as folic acid for women of child-bearing age and Vitamin D due to our latitude on the planet and the lack of direct sunlight in winter months) is the preferred method and the way our bodies are designed to work.
“By providing these services at such highly inflated prices in a department store it may seem that it is something to aspire to – it is not.”