Marketers of Prevagen Charged with Making Deceptive Memory, Cognitive Improvement Claims

The advertising campaign for Prevagen featured charts depicting rapid and dramatic improvement in memory for users of the product

Marketers of Prevagen Charged with Making Deceptive Memory, Cognitive Improvement Claims
Image: Pixabay
January 9, 2017

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the 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.

According to the FTC, the extensive national advertising campaign for Prevagen—including 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. In fact, the complaint alleges, the marketers relied on a study that failed to show that Prevagen works better than a placebo on any measure of cognitive function.

"The marketers of Prevagen preyed on the fears of older consumers experiencing age-related memory loss," said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "But one critical thing these marketers forgot is that their claims need to be backed up by real scientific evidence."

The federal court complaint alleges that the defendants enticed consumers to spend anywhere from $24 to $68 for bottles of 30 supplement pills by touting Prevagen's active ingredient—a protein derived from jellyfish—to improve memory and reduce memory problems associated with aging. The complaint notes that the supplement is widely available through major retailers such as Amazon, CVS, the Vitamin Shoppe, and Walgreens, and is also sold directly on the defendants' websites. Defendants' product sales have topped $165 million, according to the complaint.

The agencies allege that the defendants' marketing claims have violated the FTC Act and New York state laws. The agencies are seeking refunds for consumers who bought the deceptively marketed product.

"The marketing for Prevagen is a clear-cut fraud, from the label on the bottle to the ads airing across the country," said New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. "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."

The agencies have charged corporate defendants Quincy Bioscience Holding Company, Inc.; Quincy Bioscience, LLC; Prevagen, Inc., doing business as Sugar River Supplements; and Quincy Bioscience Manufacturing, LLC. The agencies also charged the two co-founders of the company, CEO Michael Beaman and President Mark Underwood who appeared in infomercials for the product.