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Posted January 10, 2017

FTC Charges Marketers of Prevagen With Making False Claims

On January 9, 2017, the FTC charged the marketers of Prevagen with making false and unsubstantiated claims that the supplement improves memory, provides cognitive benefits, and is "clinically shown" to work. 

Prevagen contains apoaequorin, a protein first discovered in jellyfish, and now apparently produced synthetically by genetically modified bacteria. The company claimed apoaequorin can help protect brain cells by binding to excess calcium, which might otherwise damage or destroy the cells. It is sold online directly by the company, as well as by other major retailers, including, CVS and Walgreens. According to the FTC, sales of the product have exceeded $165 million.

In its complaint, the FTC noted there is just one double-blind, placebo-controlled study on Prevagen, and this study failed to show a statistically significant improvement in the treatment group over the placebo group on any of the nine computerized cognitive tasks. However, the researchers repeatedly re-analyzed the data until finding positive results on a few of the tasks among certain sub-groups -- and marketers used these findings to make their claims in marketing materials and television advertisements. The FTC stated, "Given the sheer number of comparisons run and the fact that they were post hoc, the few positive findings on isolated tasks for small subgroups of the study population do not provide reliable evidence of a treatment effect." 

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman remarked in FTC's press release: "The marketing for Prevagen is a clear-cut fraud, from the label on the bottle to the ads airing across the country. It's particularly unacceptable that this company has targeted vulnerable citizens like seniors in its advertising for a product that costs more than a week's groceries, but provides none of the health benefits that it claims." 

Update (1/23/2017): Quincy Bioscience issued a response on January 9, 2017 calling the FTC complaint unfounded and inaccurate, and stating, "The FTC does not allege that Quincy's principal clinical study fails to meet the FTC's and FDA's own definition of ‘gold standard,' nor does the FTC allege that the study was poorly designed or inappropriately conducted, or that it failed to rely on scientifically-validated measures. The sole dispute rests on the interpretation and analysis of the data, with the regulators attempting to hold the company to a standard that is unreasonable, scientifically debatable, and legally invalid. Their experts simply disagree with ours over how to interpret the study results." It also said "Quincy Bioscience will vigorously defend ourselves," and "Prevagen is safe. Neither the FTC nor the New York Attorney General has alleged that Prevagen can cause or has caused harm to anyone. And hundreds of thousands people tell us it works and improves their lives." See the full statement here.

For more information about this product, see's CL Answer about Prevagen >>

To read the FTC's complete press release, use the link below: