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April 24, 2017

Does Prevagen Really Work?

Filed under: Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:19 am

Everyone has seen the TV commercials for a pill made from a chemical originally found in jellyfish. But you may not remember the product’s name nor what it is supposed to do.

The product is Prevagen and it is supposed to improve your memory.

Here is one of their ads from 2014:


What the commercials don’t disclose is that the Federal Trade Commission and the New York Attorney General’s office recently sued the makers of Prevagen alleging they did not have reliable studies to back up their claims.

In particular, the commercials assert that it is a chemical found in jellyfish that is the magic ingredient to make your brain work better. The FTC and NY-AG say that the company’s own studies show that this chemical never actually reaches the brain! (See the court filings.)

And the FTC has gotten complaints about the product. Here are some of them.

The company, Quincy Bioscience, released a statement vehemently denying the allegations. In part it says:

“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.

Quincy has amassed a large body of evidence that Prevagen improves memory and supports healthy brain function.”

So who and what is a consumer to believe?

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  1. Could you repeat the question? Based on what’s written here – without delving into the lawsuit links – it seems that Quincy changed the argument from whether it works (as the commercial purports) or not, to whether it is safe. Thankfully, a placebo can address both concerns; which, for we know, that’s what Prevagen is.

    Comment by Marty — April 24, 2017 @ 7:26 am
  2. The commercials for Prevagen cite a single “double-blind, placebo-controlled” memory study for apoaequorin, the advertised “active” ingredient in Prevagen. To the best of my knowledge, that study has not been published in a peer-reviewed journal and was led by Kenneth C. Lerner of Quincy Bioscience, LLC, the manufacturer of Prevagen, not by an independent researcher. The study was only three months long, involving 218 adults with self-reported “memory problems”. While the company-sponsored study reported improved verbal learning and recall compared to the placebo, this was seen only in those who did not have significant memory problems.

    A second study, which I cannot find on the company website, is reported to have involved 56 people. It likewise does not appear to have been peer-reviewed and was not blinded, that is, both the participants and the researchers knew who was getting Prevagen. Participants getting Prevagen were said to have claimed memory improvements in a questionnaire.

    There are also two favorable safety studies reported on the company websites. However, there have also been several thousand “adverse event” reports on Prevagen to the FDA.

    From a mechanistic perspective, it is not entirely obvious how Prevagen would work. Apoaequorin, the main ingredient in Prevagen, binds to calcium and is theorized to reduce calcium in the brain which is believed to interfere with short term memory. However, it is not clear whether much oral apoaequorin passes through the brain barrier as opposed to being degraded into its constituent amino acids.

    I am not a medical professional, but as a scientist I would be leery of the claims made for Prevagen in the absence of further and peer-reviewed research. I share the Federal Trade Commission’s skepticism.

    Comment by Jon — April 24, 2017 @ 11:03 am
  3. I am happy to see that the FTC occasionally tries to punish false advertisers. If they win, I hope that the judgement is significant enough to prevent some other advertisers from doing the same.

    Comment by Wayne — April 25, 2017 @ 9:32 am
  4. The so-callled study states the following. “While no statistically significant results were observed over the entire study population, there were statistically significant results in [two] subgroups.” Run enough tests and you’ll find something, but it’s meaningless.

    Comment by hmc — April 25, 2017 @ 3:24 pm
  5. I was going to comment but forgot what I was going to write. (sorry – someone had to do it).

    Comment by Rick M. — April 27, 2017 @ 7:19 am
  6. When I first started seeing these commercials, I knew it was just a snake oil, err.. jellyfish goo scam. What’s even more outrageous? The very same TV networks and cable news that reported this story (I’m looking at you CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, et. al.) still continue to show the ads and accept their money, making millions. What a bunch of effing hypocrites!

    Comment by Sam Kay — May 7, 2017 @ 8:46 am

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