Prevagen: FTC and New York State Attorney General action

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Posted 16 January 2017

Prevagen, which claims to “improve memory”, is available in South Africa:

Imported by Zenith Biomedical, it is also sold through www.wantitall.co.za

We have previously pointed out that a class action suit has been launched against the American manufacturers. Now the USA Federal Trade Commission and New York State Attorney General has stepped in.

The Federal Trade Commission and New York State Attorney General have charged the marketers of the dietary supplement Prevagen with making false and unsubstantiated claims that the product improves memory, provides cognitive benefits, and is “clinically shown” to work.
[FTC, New York State charge the marketers of Prevagen with making deceptive memory, cognitive Improvement claims: Widely advertised supplement touted to improve memory in 90 days. FTC news release, Jan 9, 2017]

The defendants in the case are Quincy Bioscience Holding Company, Inc.; Quincy Bioscience, LLC; Prevagen, Inc. (doing business as Sugar River Supplements); Quincy Bioscience Manufacturing, LLC, and company co-founders, CEO Michael Beaman, and President Mark Underwood. Prevagen is said to contain a protein (apoaequorin) originally found in jellyfish. The complaint states:

  • Sales of Prevagen in the United States from 2007 through mid-2015, minus refunds, totaled $165 million.
  • The extensive national advertising campaign for Prevagen, which included TV spots on national broadcast and cable networks such as CNN, Fox News, and NBC, featured charts depicting rapid and dramatic improvement in memory for users of the product.
  • Underwood appeared in infomercials for the product.
  • The  study on which the marketers relied actually failed to show that Prevagen works better than a placebo for the nine cognitive functions that were tested. After the data were collected, Quincy broke it down into small subgroups, which greatly increased the probability of “statistically significant” differences occurring by chance alone. However, this is not a valid statistical method.
  • Quincy claims that the apoaequorin in Prevagen crosses the blood-brain barrier to enter the brain to supplement proteins lost during the natural process of aging. But the company’s own safety studies show that it can’t do this because it is digested in the stomach like any other dietary protein.

In 2015,  Truth in Advertising (TINA) learned that the FDA had received more than 50 adverse health events associated with Prevagen use. Most of these involved hospitalization. Quincy Bioscience has issued a news release “vehemently” denying the FTC allegations and promising to fight the complaint “on behalf of its consumers.” In 2012, the FDA warned Underwood that claims the company was making at that time were illegal and that it lacked FDA approval to conduct a human study of apoaequorin mentioned on one of its Web sites. It could be asked why, if alleged wrongdoing was known to federal regulators five years ago, the marketing of Prevagen was not challenged sooner.

Source: Consumer Health Digest #17-03 January 15, 2017

South African Sources:

  • Facebook advert: “https://www.facebook.com/zenithbiomedical/posts/473774926131654”
  • www.wantitall.co.za/Health-and-Personal-Care/Prevagen-90-Capsules__B00HMTFR3W

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