The Rise of Consumer IV Therapy Clinics
Intravenous (“IV”) therapies, which deliver medicines or fluids through a needle or tube inserted into a vein, a mainstay of hospitals and doctors’ offices globally, have entered American living rooms, strip malls, and hotel lobbies. On-demand IV infusions of saline, vitamins and prescription drugs can now easily be ordered to your home or accessed at ambulatory clinics – known as “drip bars” – across the country. Originally made popular as a quick hangover cure, the trend has been adopted by health-conscious consumers seeking a pick-me-up. While IV therapy can be a shortcut to hydration and can leave customers feeling great, the benefits may be limited. Nonetheless, demand for easily accessible drip therapy is rapidly growing, and the fragmented market presents vast opportunity for new entrants.
Drip bar menus offer treatments catering to a wide variety of patients and ailments, such as jet lagged travelers, migraine sufferers, victims of food poisoning, or even people trying to revitalize the look of their skin and hair. First, among these patient groups, are those seeking hangover treatments, which typically calls for a cocktail of saline, vitamin B12, and a host of prescription drugs which can include anti-nausea agents, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and anti-heartburn medication. Other therapy offerings can include additional vitamin cocktails, electrolytes, and other prescription drugs. These procedures can be pricey, ranging from $150 for a basic saline bag to over $400 for more elaborate infusions. As on-demand IV therapy is not currently covered by Medicare or commercial insurance providers, these fees are entirely out-of-pocket.
Although proponents of drip therapy sing its praises, the clinical benefits of the treatment may be lacking. While there may be a marginal benefit to intravenous hydration and drug delivery for drip bar patients, the majority of the positive effects observed by proponents are likely a placebo resulting from the act of receiving IV fluids. There are also minor risks of complications resulting from the procedure, such as infection of the injection site, inflammation or clotting in the vein, and/or interactions with other prescriptions.
Current regulation and enforcement of on-demand IV therapy clinics is light. In most states, the owner must obtain a license for a physician medical office, and must employ a physician, a physician’s assistant, or a nurse practitioner to prescribe medications. In practice, the standards are widely variable among establishments, and clinics often skirt the rules by using other medical professionals such as EMTs or Registered Nurses in place of the required personnel. Some jurisdictions, including Clark County, Nevada, are exploring more strict regulation, but widespread adoption is still far away.
To date, there has been little private equity activity in the consumer IV therapy market. A small number of medspas or other clinics offering IV services have been backed by venture investors, such as M13 Ventures’ investment in Next Health, provider of a range of health and wellness services. However, infusion therapy clinics, which provide medically necessary IV infusion therapy and pharmacy services, have seen greater investment activity in recent years, including Boyne Capital Partners’ 2018 acquisition of Infusion Associates Management and Excellere Partners’ 2013 acquisition of Advanced Infusion Solutions. Retail IV therapy clinics have the potential to be accretive add-on investments for established infusion platforms like these.
The current retail IV therapy market is highly fragmented among many small, local clinics, and consumer demand is strong and growing, so new entrants will have a meaningful opportunity to consolidate and quickly build a large geographic footprint.
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“Clark County in Talks to Regulate IV Therapy Businesses,” Fox 5 Vegas
“Drip Bar: Should You Get an IV On Demand,” Harvard Health
“Should You Try I.V. Therapy?,” U.S. News & World Report