The Bulletin

Dehydration cure from developing countries comes to U.S. hospitals

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A cheap treatment for dehydration that's used in developing countries could be coming to leading hospitals in the U.S. Businessweek reports.

Drip Drop is a new powder formulation of oral rehydration therapy (ORT) in which patients drink the hydrating solution, rather than having it injected.

In the U.S., intravenous fluids are the main treatment doctors use to fight dehydration. In developing countries, where millions of children die each year from dehydration caused by infectious diarrhea, doctors rely on ORT, which is cheaper and easier to administer in most cases.

“Oral rehydration therapy is a prime example of reverse technology,” says Drip Drop founder Eduardo Dolhun, who landed in Guatemala in the middle of a cholera outbreak. “It was engineered for resource-constrained environments to increase quality of care and decrease costs.”

U.S. hospital admissions to treat dehydration cost $5.5 billion in 2004. That includes the expense of administering IVs, along with other hospital costs that could have been avoided.

At about $2.50 a dose, the powder costs exponentially less than intravenous hydration treatments… and it tastes better than other rehydration drinks that are laden with salt. “Medical grade hydration with great taste,” their website says.

Dolhun, who was running a private clinic in San Francisco, began trying out different mixtures of sugars and salts on his patients. In 2010, he settled on a formula and started manufacturing.

A handful of hospitals, including the Mayo Clinic and Stanford University Medical Center, have agreed to try Drip Drop in patient care.

His startup has raised $3 million with the help of investors including a nightclub impresario and two football Hall of Famers. Maybe that’s because Drip Drop also works as a hangover cure and an energy booster. While the company is aiming for hospitals and pharmacies, perhaps the $5 billion sports drinks market might be the bigger prize. They’re also developing new flavors and a liquid version.


Image: Enid Martindale via Flickr

— By on August 28, 2013, 6:22 PM PST

Janet Fang

Contributing Editor

Janet Fang has written for Nature, Discover and the Point Reyes Light. She is currently a lab technician at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. She holds degrees from the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure