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Government lawsuit disputes "extravagant" claims of memory supplement

Supplement Prevagen lawsuit
Supplement Prevagen lawsuit 02:22

A new lawsuit by two government agencies accuses the company behind dietary supplement Prevagen of misleading its customers. The popular supplement is heavily marketed as a way to help improve memory and is sold in pharmacies and health stores nationwide, reports CBS News correspondent Anna Werner.

Its maker, Quincy Bioscience, says the pills contain a protein derived from jellyfish – one they claim helps improve brain function – but government officials say those claims just don’t add up.

A new lawsuit by two government agencies accuses Quincy Bioscience, the company behind dietary supplement Prevagen, of misleading its customers. CBS News

The ads for Prevagen are hard to miss. They’re for a supplement promising to improve cognitive skills.

“Prevagen is clinically shown to improve memory,” the ad says.    

“The breakthrough in Prevagen helps your brain, allowing you to stay as sharp as possible,” the ad also promises.

The problem?

“There are some pretty extravagant claims made,” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said.

Schneiderman said Quincy Bioscience can’t back it up.

“It’s really a very straight-forward fraud in advertising claim,” Schneiderman said.

What’s more, he believes that aggressive marketing targets a vulnerable group: older Americans.

“They were making a lot of money off of it, so we’re seeking… to get relief for the seniors who are scammed,” Schneiderman said.

A bottle of Prevagen can cost as much as $69. According to the government, from 2007 to 2015, Americans bought $165 million worth. The joint complaint by the attorney general and the Federal Trade Commission said the company’s own clinical study “failed to show a statistically significant improvement in the treatment group over the placebo group.”

Quincy Bioscience called the allegations in the suit “unfounded and inaccurate.”

“Hundreds of thousands of people tell us it works and improves their lives,” the company said in a statement. “Quincy has amassed a large body of evidence that Prevagen improves memory and supports healthy brain function.”

Back in 2012, the FDA sent Quincy a warning letter about the supplement’s make-up and marketing. We also learned Monday the FDA conducted inspections at two locations belonging to Quincy’s parent company just this past October and November. The agency declined to comment further because “the matter remains open.”

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