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Memory-boosting Prevagen has no scientific backing, FTC says

The Federal Trade Commission and the New York State Attorney General today filed a complaint against a supplement company that has been selling jellyfish protein purporting that it improves memory.

Prevagen’s label says that it is “clinically shown to help with mild memory problems associated with aging.” But the study backing up that claim, which was sponsored by the company that markets the pill, shows no statistically significant difference from a placebo, according to the complaint.

The supplement has been heavily marketed, including TV ads on national broadcast and cable networks such as CNN, Fox News, and NBC. Ads feature charts depicting dramatic cognitive improvement among users.

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“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. “Yet despite the defendants’ claims, there is no scientific proof that use of the product will improve memory or provide any other cognitive benefit.”

The study itself found “no statistically significant results over the entire study population,” but statistically significant differences in two subgroups. According to the complaint, the researchers who conducted the study ran so many subgroup analyses that the fact that a few showed statistical significance is meaningless.

This is not the first time that Quincy Bioscience has found itself in hot water over the marketing of Prevagen, the supplement that supposedly aids in memory. In 2012, it received an FDA warning letter, and in 2015, it was the subject of a class action lawsuit.