Lawsuit Charges That Quincy Bioscience Falsely Advertises Prevagen – A Widely-Sold Supplement That Costs Up To $69 Per Bottle – Claiming It Is “Clinically Shown” To Improve Memory, Yet Possesses No Scientific Evidence For These Claims
New York AG & FTC Seek A Ban On Further False Claims About Prevagen, Restitution For Consumers, And Civil Penalties
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that, jointly with the Federal Trade Commission, his office has filed a lawsuit against dietary supplement maker Quincy Bioscience, LLC and related companies and executives, charging that they deceptively market the widely-sold supplement Prevagen by falsely claiming that the product improves memory, despite lacking reliable scientific evidence to support this claim. The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, seeks a ban on further false claims about Prevagen, restitution for consumers, disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, and civil penalties for violations of state law.
Quincy Bioscience manufactures Prevagen and has marketed the product since 2007 through an extensive national advertising campaign targeted primarily to seniors and spanning TV, radio, print, and social media. In its advertising and in the product labeling, Quincy Bioscience claims that Prevagen is “clinically shown” to support “clearer thinking” and to “improve memory within 90 days” – yet, the primary support Quincy Bioscience has for these claims is a single study that failed to show a statistically significant improvement in the treatment group over the placebo group on any of the cognitive measures used.
According to the complaint, Quincy Bioscience’s own research demonstrates the flawed science behind its claims that Prevagen can improve memory. Quincy Bioscience developed and marketed Prevagen on the theory that its active ingredient, apoaequorin, a dietary protein, enters the human brain to supplement proteins that are lost during the natural aging process. Yet Quincy Bioscience lacks any studies showing that this orally-administered protein can cross the human blood brain barrier, and in fact, Quincy’s own studies show that the protein is rapidly digested in the stomach and broken down into amino acids like any other dietary protein.
“The marketing for Prevagen is a clear-cut fraud, from the label on the bottle to the ads airing across the country,” said Attorney General 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. Quincy Bioscience must be held accountable for deliberately misleading consumers across the country.”
“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.”
Prevagen, which can cost up to $69 per bottle, is sold at major retailers and pharmacies across the country, including CVS, Walgreens, Rite-Aid, the Vitamin Shoppe, and Amazon. Sales of Prevagen in the United States from 2007 through mid-2015, minus refunds, totaled $165 million.
The action announced today is one of a number of steps taken by the Attorney General to help educate the public and raise awareness of the potential for false claims involving dietary supplements. In February 2015, the Attorney General sent cease and desist letters to major dietary supplement retailers asking them to halt sales of certain herbal supplements where DNA tests failed to detect the ingredient listed on the product labels. Later that year, the Attorney General reached settlements with GNC and Nature’s Way in which they agreed to perform DNA barcoding as part of their approach to assuring authenticity. In September 2016, the Attorney General reached an agreement with NBTY, the herbal supplement maker for Walgreens and Walmart, to implement similar reforms.
This case is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Kate Matuschak and Ellen J. Fried, Special Assistant Attorney General Stephen Mindell, Deputy Bureau Chief Laura J. Levine, and Bureau Chief Jane M. Azia, all of the Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau. The Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau is in the Division of Economic Justice, led by Executive Deputy Attorney General Manisha M. Sheth.