Photo courtesy of Reme

IV therapy has proliferated in Santa Monica in the past five as they became trendy with celebrities throughout Los Angeles. Now, a downtown startup is dispatching the therapy to customers’ homes via an app.

REME, which offers on-demand IV therapy, massages and stretches in Southern California and the Bay Area, is capitalizing on the local wellness trend. The therapy started in Las Vegas in 2012 as a hangover cure and has since spread across the country. Still popular as a remedy for a heavy night of drinking, clients now ask for a variety of vitamin blends to reduce stress, fight colds and flus and relieve chronic pain.

REME also sends out massage and stretch therapists, which managing director Moaz Hamid said are popular with runners looking to lower the risk of injury and activate their muscles. The company sponsored the Malibu Half-Marathon & 5K Run/Walk earlier this month, but said it’s not just athletes who are using the app.

“A lot of our customers are engineers working longer hours and drinking a lot of coffee, tea and soft drinks, and IV therapy helps them rehydrate and focus,” he said. “The harder your work is mentally, like coding or accounting, the more IV therapy could help you restore and get back to work.”

Hamid said massages are also in demand with office workers.

“A massage helps relieve body stress, pain, anxiety and depression,” he said. “Going back to work after that feels incredible.”

Online, the app’s users praise its lower prices on massages compared to traditional massage parlors and the consistent quality of its masseuses. The IV therapy it offers is a little more controversial, particularly with doctors, many of whom say the treatment is ineffective and potentially dangerous when done incorrectly. Some say people only feel better after an IV drip because of the placebo effect.

Anesthesiologist Brett Florie, who operates the Hydration Room on Montana Avenue, maintains the therapy is an effective treatment for migraines, Crohn’s Disease and the flu because of the vitamins it provides. He’s skeptical of the recent popularity of mobile services like REME, however.

The level of salt in IVs can be harmful to people with heart disease or high blood pressure, improperly inserted catheters can expose patients to infection or cause strokes and infusing vitamins too quickly can cause heart failure, kidney damage or swelling of the brain, doctors say, although such harmful side effects are rare.

Florie says brick-and-mortar IV clinics ask customers about their medical history to determine if they are at risk of any side effects and train nurses to handle issues, such as allergies, that may arise.

However, Hamid said REME uses a medical company to provide the IV therapy, and a doctor or nurse practitioner calls users to ask about their medical history after they order an IV drip through the app. Once the nurse arrives at a user’s location, he or she asks additional medical questions and performs a physical checkup on the user before hooking up the IV.

If there are any unforeseen issues, the nurse can take out the IV and do additional testing or call an ambulance if required, Hamid said.

“It’s not done by inexperienced people,” he said. “It’s similar to going to the doctor.”

As REME expands across California during the next year and prepares for a national expansion, the company plans to market the app as a way to fit self-care into a busy lifestyle.

“Between work and family and traffic, you end up not having time for yourself at all,” Hamid said. “It’s very important for us to be in (users’) daily lives without taking up too much of their time.”

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