January 12, 2004
Scripps Howard News Service
It's fast, fairly cheap and it comes with almost no side effects, patients and doctors say.
Yet 30 years after Maryland physician John Myers started giving sick patients mega-doses of vitamins and minerals directly into their veins, intravenous vitamin therapy remains largely underused, proponents say.
"It's not patentable. There is no one out there who is going to make a lot of money on these ingredients, so it remains, in a sense, underappreciated," says Dr. Pierre Brunschwig of Helios Health Centers in Boulder, Colo.
At Helios, about six patients a day drop by for a "Myers cocktail": an IV spiked with mega-doses of magnesium, vitamin C, calcium, B vitamins and other nutrients that assist adrenal function.
Patients seek the treatment for everything from halting a migraine or asthma attack to warding off cardiovascular disease or quelling chronic fatigue syndrome. A treatment costs $65 and lasts roughly 20 minutes. Aside from an occasional sting and a bit of light-headedness, there are no side effects, Brunschwig says.
While Helios sticks with the Myers cocktail combination, some clinics use IV infusions of just vitamin C to treat cancer patients. Research is also under way into treating multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease and macular degeneration with various intravenous nutrients.
Because IV therapy bypasses the digestive tract, patients can get up to 10 times as much in one treatment as they could take orally in a day. Quickly flooding the blood with nutrients drives them into the cells more efficiently than being absorbed over time, Brunschwig says.
Dr. Andrea Cohen, an associate professor at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver, says she has seen many small but promising studies examining intravenous vitamin C for cancer and IV magnesium for asthma, migraines and angina. Overall, results on their effectiveness have been mixed. But if given properly, they appear to be safe, she says.
She's intrigued, but not convinced. "There are great anecdotal reports," she says. "It's time to do some larger studies in a rigorous, controlled setting to get some final answers."
At Helios, the key ingredient in the Myers cocktail is magnesium, an element responsible for roughly 300 body processes, including the relaxation of smooth muscles that control blood vessels in the lungs, head and heart.
Brunschwig often tests patient magnesium levels and, if they are low, recommends a six- to eight-week IV program.
Two recent studies published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine looked
at urban emergency rooms that use IV magnesium sulfate to treat migraines
or asthma attacks. While falling short of a wholesale recommendation, both
studies found the treatment to be safe and beneficial.
Copyright © 2004, Scripps Howard News Service