Friday, January 13, 2017

Does Prevagen Improve Memory?

You've seen the commercials for Prevagen, right? It's a dietary supplement containing a protein derived from jellyfish that (according to the manufacturer) "improves memory and reduces common cognitive problems associated with aging." Trouble is, those claims are bogus, according to both the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the New York Attorney General's office. This week the two agencies sued Prevagen's manufacturer, Quincy Bioscience for making false and misleading claims, most notably the claim that Prevagen has been "clinically proven" to work. According to the complaint, the experiments undertaken to prove Prevagen's effectiveness were scientifically invalid because they did not show that Prevagen worked any better than a placebo.

No big deal, you say? Well, if you give people memory tests over time, you'd expect some improvement just from test familiarity alone. That's why it's so important to compare the experimental (Prevagen) group to a control group (a group given a fake pill, or placebo), using valid statistical methods.

Prevagen can cost upwards of $60 for a 30-pill bottle. According to the FTC, about $165 million a year is spent on the supplement. That's a lot for an untested cure.

Quincy Bioscience has responded to the lawsuit with a statement that says, in part, that Prevagen hasn't been shown to harm anyone (which is beside the point), and that "hundreds of thousands" of people tell them that Prevagen works and improves their lives. The latter statement, of course, is unscientific and unverifiable.

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