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Vitamins delivered via IV: STAT wisely asks ‘where’s the evidence?’

Rating

5 Star

Categories

Vitamin IVs promise to erase jet lag and clear your mind. Where’s the evidence?

Our Review Summary

This short story shines a bright light on a health fad in which nutritional vitamin supplements are delivered directly to people via an intravenous drip.

The story was well-sourced and took a critical look at a health fad that’s trending. We appreciated the story’s probing and use of the word “evidence” in the headline. The story glossed over the potential harms a bit, but was otherwise a solid piece.

 

Why This Matters

Claims about supplements fuel a a big industry in the United States, and this story helps squelch some of the hype around vitamin IV infusions by taking a look at the evidence for its use.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Satisfactory

The story provides the retail price for the supplements described in the story.  (Between $325 and $875 for an infusion.) That’s great, but it would have been even better to know the mark-up. How much the ingredients cost vs. how much is charged to the patient? And does insurance cover this, ever?

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Satisfactory

The story hinges on the lack of benefits, and we think it chose credible sources for questions about that. Besides quoting nutrition researchers Goodstein and Miller, we liked how the story explained the history behind the “Myers” cocktail and links to a review published in an alternative medicine journal. Readers are given their own way to check the credibility of claims of “evidence.”

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The statement from the clinic that these IV infusions are safe was unchallenged. There is always a potential harm in an IV administration (infection, vein damage) and yes, receiving worthless treatments for what could be a serious condition is a potential. Also, there was no mention about what kind of testing is done before these treatments are administered, but it appeared to be minimal.

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Satisfactory

The story gave readers multiple chances to read studies on intravenous nutritional supplements. The quality of evidence of course was low, but that was the point of the story.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

There was no disease mongering.

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?

Satisfactory

The story chose sources who were outside the retail industry selling supplements, and we didn’t detect any potential conflicts of interest.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Applicable

The story was looking at the trendy use of Vitamin IV infusions for a host of conditions (and things like hangovers), so we’ll rate this N/A.

That said, the story still could have mentioned that there are tests and treatments for many of the conditions mentioned in the story, and many of these do have evidence for their use.

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Satisfactory

The story explained that several different companies are selling nutritional supplements delivered by intravenous drip. But it was not clear how easy these are to obtain and the potential for insurance coverage was not mentioned, so this is a marginal satisfactory rating.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

The story did a good job establishing the lack of novelty.

“Vitamin IV infusions aren’t anything new. Celebrities from Simon Cowell and Rihanna to the Real Housewives have proclaimed their love for vitamin drips. They’re part of a huge — and wildly popular — supplement industry which goes largely unregulated. Supplement makers aren’t allowed to claim that their products can cure or treat a particular condition, but they are allowed to make sweeping claims that the products promote health.

The infusion treatments can be traced back to an intravenous supplement known as the Myers’ cocktail, a slurry of magnesium, calcium, B vitamins, and other products developed decades ago by a Baltimore physician. There is a published review on the use of Myers’ cocktail — but it’s just a collection of anecdotal evidence. The author, Dr. Alan Gaby, has long promoted the use of intravenous vitamins for a wide range of clinical conditions.”

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?

Satisfactory

The story did not appear to rely on a news release, and quoted independent sources.

Total Score: 8 of 9 Satisfactory

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