Are Prevagen’s Memory Claims False?

The maker of Prevagen, a memory supplement, continues to be embroiled in legal controversy surrounding marketing claims that Prevegan can improve memory in older adults.


The Federal Trade Commission and New York State Attorney General filed a complaint in 2017 against the maker of Prevagen, alleging false advertising that Prevagen improved memory and is “clinically shown” to work.

“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.”

However, the complaint was dismissed in US District Court later in 2017.

2018 Update

The FTC and New York AG’s office are taking a second run at the complaint against Prevegen’s maker with an appeal to re-instate the case.

Also, the AARP Foundation and Truth in Advertising ( non-profit have filed a brief in support of re-instating the case against Prevagen’s maker. The brief includes this interesting view:

“In 2011, four years after launching Prevagen, Wisconsin-based Quincy Bioscience embarked on a study to prove that the active ingredient in the supplement — apoaequorin — improves memory. It did not yield the results Quincy was hoping for. In fact, the Madison Memory Study failed to show a statistically significant improvement in the treatment group over the placebo group — scientist speak for Prevagen wasn’t any better than a placebo at improving memory. But rather than pack it in and start afresh with a new study, like a high school biology student whose hypothesis has been proven wrong but who still needs an A to pass the class, Quincy concocted new, less reliable ways to look at the completed study.”

In other words, the legal brief claims that Quincy fiddled with the Prevagen study data to get the results they wanted, instead of what the actual results were telling them (no improvement for people taking Prevagen).

The Problem With Memory Supplements

The lack of reliable clinical trials for memory supplements isn’t confined to Prevagen alone. There are a ridiculous number of memory and “brain pill” supplements available on Amazon, and none of them have any peer-reviewed studies to back up the hopeful marketing claims.

This also feeds into a business issue that isn’t easily dismissed – Amazon and retail outlets like Walgreens, Walmart, and Target receive substantial revenue (and profit) from selling these supplements. They are very reluctant to pull items off websites and retail shelves that keep their business turning.

Bottom Line: Caveat Emptor – Buyer Beware. Memory supplements aren’t backed by independent research.

Consider instead: regular physical exercise, a healthy diet, and good sleep quality. The best “supplements” for your brain.

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