Long Covid sufferers in the UK are being charged as much as £2,000 for unproven vitamin IV drip treatments, MailOnline can reveal.
An MP accused companies of taking advantage of sick and potentially vulnerable Britons, and urged ministers to clamp down on the practice.
Vitamin drip clinics have become a High Street craze in recent years, popularised by celebrities like Kendall Jenner and Rihanna, as well as Love Island and Made in Chelsea stars, who have all used the treatments.
Social media posts promoted by celebrities and influencers have claimed the drips can cure hangovers, strengthen the immune system or burn fat.
Clinics can charge hundreds of pounds to give customers an intravenous infusion of vitamins or minerals, which are mixed with saline solution.
The practice is controversial, with claims the drips help boost immunity, mood, and detoxify the body treated with skepticism by medical professionals. Some have even go as far as to say they are ‘ineffective’ and ‘potentially harmful’.
Now a MailOnline investigation has found several vitamin drip providers and clinics in London are specifically targeting long Covid patients.
One Harley Street clinic bragged how one of its cocktails would boost the immune system of long Covid sufferers and help them return to a normal lifestyle, despite no proof that it works.
Supervit IV, charges £2,000 for its Covid symptom relief wellness programme
Model Chrissy Teigen posted this image of her using an IV drip on Instagram in 2015 and wrote: ‘Hello body meet vitamins’
Miley Cyrus appeared to be taking part in at-home vitamin drip therapy back in 2015
Rihanna posted an image of herself getting an IV drip way back in 2012, sparking a surge in their popularity
The Hale Clinic offers a staggering five ‘flavours’ of IV drips for long Covid suffers promising to alleviate everything form bolstering your immune system to clearing up damaged skin
The London Clinic of Nutrition also offers IV drip treatments for long Covid as well as suggesting its ‘optimal health package for maximum results’ which costs £695
Long Covid is a poorly understood condition, which can leave survivors with fatigue, shortness of breath and memory problems months after their illness.
There is no known cure and while the NHS does list several ways to alleviate a dozen or so symptoms attributed to the condition, vitamin drips are not among them.
The Office of National Statistics recently estimated that 1.33million Britons are living with long Covid.
What are controversial vitamin drip clinics?
Vitamin drip clinics advertise a number of health and lifestyle benefits.
The practice involves having a bag of fluid containing a cocktail of vitamins and minerals slowly fed into your bloodstream via a needle and tube into your arm.
Depending on the flavor or particular infusion of drip bag chosen, the advertised benefits include boosting immunity, digestion, the health of your skin and hair, and curing hangovers.
It is not without risks however. Model Kendall Jenner was hospitalised in 2018 following a bad reaction to a Myers cocktail IV drip, made up of saline solution, magnesium, calcium, B vitamins and vitamin C.
The rise of vitamin drips prompted NHS England’s top doctor Professor Stephen Powis to warn the public about the potential dangers posed by them back in 2019.
‘People who are healthy do not need IV drips. At best they are an expensive way to fill your bladder – and then flush hundreds of pounds down the toilet – but at worst they can cause significant damage to your health,’ he said.
Most of the clinics that MailOnline uncovered do not list their prices online, instead encouraging long Covid sufferers to contact them directly to discuss a care package.
However, Supervit IV, a clinic based in London but which has locations all over the country charges £2,000 for its symptom relief package which is for those ‘seeking a better quality of life following illnesses such as covid-19’.
Founder of the clinic, Dr Anjum Jahan, defended his choice to sell the drips, telling MailOnline: ‘We have treated well over 100 long Covid patients.
‘Patients often come to us initially to help with the symptoms of Covid but then subsequently stay with us due to the beneficial effects they experience such as enhanced energy and reduced headaches.’
While Dr Jahan admitted there was ‘no direct evidence’ that vitamin drips could help treat long Covid, he said they helped treat the symptoms of the virus generally.
‘There is currently no direct evidence that a nutrient drip can help treat long Covid specifically,’ he said.
‘However, there is evidence that vitamins can have a positive impact when it comes to reducing symptoms of Covid.’
He also claimed the IV vitamin delivery was more effective than taking vitamins in a tablet, and therefore increased their ability to help long Covid sufferers.
Other clinics offering vitamin drips for, or as part of, treatments for long Covid include the London Clinic of Nutrition, the Harpal Clinic, and the Hale Clinic, all based in the capitol.
On the Hale Clinic website, it states: ‘Recovery from viruses such as SARS-COVID, requires the body to have a strong resistive network of systems.
‘The Hale Infusions are re-designed by our infusion specialists in light of the Covid virus to build resistance and strength based on your needs.’
It goes on to offer five vitamin drip packages promising to help long Covid suffers.
The Hale Super Immunity Support will ‘build resistance against viruses and diseases’ and ‘help push you back into a normal lifestyle’.
In advertising another cocktail for long Covid suffers, the Intravenous Hale Base, the Hale clinic claims: ‘Persistent tiredness, loss of appetite, muscle weakness and other ailments that generally accompany long COVID, the body-vitamin balance is very likely to be disrupted’.
Reality TV star Stacey Solomon, pictured, has recommended IV vitamin treatments on her Instagram page
Kendall Jenner, here pictured in Los Angeles yesterday was hospitalised in 2018 after having bad reaction to a vitamin infusion known as the ‘Myers Cocktail’
Kendall Jenner ‘hospitalised after suffering from bad reaction to vitamin drip’
Kendall Jenner was hospitalised after suffering from a negative reaction to a vitamin drip ahead of her appearance at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party in 2018.
The reality star was released shortly after checking in and being treated for the reaction at Cedars Sinai in Beverly Hills, according to The Blast.
Ms Jenner had the ‘Myers Cocktail’ drip infusion, which consists of saline solution, magnesium, calcium, B vitamins and vitamin C.
This cocktail has been said to be particularly popular with celebrities to help maintain their health due to their busy schedules.
One of the rare potential side effects is having an allergic reaction to the contents or materials used to deliver the concoction which can result in swelling or blistering on the skin.
The contents can also potentially interact with prescribed medications putting people at risk.
Magnesium in the cocktail can also make people feel lightheaded.
It is unknown exactly what kind of negative Ms Jenner suffered.
It then goes on to urge sufferers to promptly ‘replenish essential vitamins and minerals’ though the cocktail.
Some other infusions even offer to combat the cosmetic consequences of having long Covid like skin rashes.
‘When experiencing rashes as a symptom of long Covid, or persistent dullness shown in the skin the Hale Skin Brightening infusion can help remove scars from rashes and brighten the skin,’ the ad reads.
All the clinics named were contacted about their Covid treatments but most did not respond to request for comment from MailOnline.
Layla Moran, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus, said: ‘We know Covid can cause long-term serious illness in young and healthy people and we also know that support services are overstretched and under-resourced.
‘Companies taking advantage of the government’s lack of provisions for long Covid are not only against ASA guidelines, but could put already unwell people at even greater risk.
‘It is vital that ministers not only clamp down on these unscientific practices, but also outline a comprehensive plan on how they intend to expedite the research of the condition and provide ample support to long Covid sufferers who have been left in the lurch.’
It is not the first time vitamin drip clinics have been criticised for offering potentially bogus Covid related treatments.
The Government’s ad watchdog, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), came down hard on vitamin drip clinics last year after some started offering treatments for Covid.
In May 2020, ASA said all vitamin drip clinics must ‘must not directly or indirectly claim that IV drips can prevent or treat’ Covid.
ASA was contacted by the MailOnline for comment on clinics now offering long Covid treatments.
UK health authorities have grown increasingly concerned about the rise of vitamin drip clinics after celebrities touted their use of bags of saline solution, magnesium, calcium, B vitamins, and vitamin C
The health service has taken a harsh line on vitamin drip clinics, with NHS England’s medical director Professor Stephen Powis warning the public about them back at the end of 2019.
‘At a time when health misinformation is running riot on social media, it is reckless and exploitative of these companies to peddle ineffective and misleading treatments, and those celebrities and influencers who help them do this are letting their fans down,’ he said.
‘At best they are an expensive way to fill your bladder – and then flush hundreds of pounds down the toilet – but at worst they can cause significant damage to your health.’
Celebrities have been ardent fans and promoters of vitamin drips for a decade.
In the UK, the bogus remedies have been plugged by Love Island contestants Amber Davies, Anna Vakili, Camilla Thurlow and Jamie Jewitt.
Made In Chelsea stars Oliver Proudlock and Olivia Bentley have also advocated the treatments.
Pop star Rihanna is partly credited with sparking a surge in vitamin drip popularity after posting an image of herself receiving one back in 2012.
Other celebrity fans of the treatment have included singer Miley Cyrus, model Chrissy Teigen, and reality television star Stacey Solomon.
Vitamin drips haven’t ended well for all celebrities however.
Model Kendall Jenner was hospitalised in 2018 after having a bad reaction to a ‘Myers cocktail’ IV drip, which is composed of saline solution, magnesium, calcium, B vitamins and vitamin C.
The NHS warns that in extreme cases, regularly resorting to vitamin drips can cause nausea, liver damage, or death due to a toxic overdose of vitamin A.
What is Long Covid and what does the NHS recommend for it?
As of January 2, an estimated 1.33 million people in the UK were estimated to have long Covid, according to the Office of National Statistics.
Long Covid is an informal term, used to describe ongoing symptoms following a Covid infection that go on longer than 12 weeks.
A dizzying array of symptoms have been attributed to long Covid, including:
- extreme tiredness (fatigue)
- shortness of breath
- chest pain or tightness
- problems with memory and concentration (‘brain fog’)
- difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
- heart palpitations
- pins and needles
- joint pain
- depression and anxiety
- tinnitus, earaches
- feeling sick, diarrhoea, stomach aches, loss of appetite
- a high temperature, cough, headaches, sore throat, changes to sense of smell or taste