The People's Perspective on Medicine

Does Prevagen Help to Improve Memory?

There has been a great deal of advertising for a dietary supplement called Prevagen to improve memory. Now the FTC has called the product into question.

UPDATE on Prevagen–10/4/17. The Federal Trade Commission and the New York attorney filed a lawsuit against the maker of Prevagen in January, 2017. They charged the marketers of Prevagen with making deceptive memory and cognitive improvement claims. This supplement is heavily advertised on television as “clinically shown to improve short term memory.” According to the company that makes Prevagen, Quincy Bioscience:

“On September 29, Judge Louis Stanton of the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York dismissed the Federal Trade Commission and the New York Attorney General’s complaint against Quincy Bioscience, the makers of Prevagen.”

People Want to Know: Does Prevagen Work?

Over the years we have heard from a number of readers who have asked about Prevagen. Here are just some of the questions we have received:

Jim in Durham, NC, asked:

“Hi Joe and Terry. Have you any words of wisdom regarding Prevagen? Does it work? What can I use for mental clarity and acuity?”

Carolyn in Vance, AL, wondered:

“I saw an advertisement for Prevagen, a protein from the ocean that protects our brain cells as we age and provides a better memory. Will this work?”

Tony in Greenville, SC, inquired:

“What are your comments on the supplement Prevagen? I heard advertising that it protects cells that deal with our memory and can even noticeably improve our memory? Is this false or misleading advertising?”

Charles has a lot of company with his question:

“As a member of the baby boomer generation, I am reaching an age where one expects to see some slowing of focus and cognitive function. Thus far, this has not interfered with my daily activities or work, and I’d like to keep it that way. One hears various advertisements on the radio, etc. for products that are intended to help with this. The most appealing commercials are for Prevagen. I would be interested in your opinion of this product or others like it.”

Doreen shared this experience:

“I have been taking this memory supplement [Prevagen] for over three months now and am seeing no results. I am wondering if it works for all?  In fact, if anything, my short term [memory] seems worse.  I would be interested to see something on this in your column.”

What’s the Story on Prevagen?

This supplement is derived from a protein found in jellyfish. One television commercial states:

“The breakthrough in Prevagen helps your brain, allowing you to stay as sharp as possible…Powered by an ingredient originally discovered in jellyfish, Prevagen is clinically shown to improve short term memory. Prevagen, a name to remember.”

Another commercial states:

“The protein originally found in a jellyfish improve your memory? Our scientists say yes. Researchers have discovered a protein that actually supports healthier brain function. It’s the breakthrough in a supplement called Prevagen. As we age, we lose proteins that support our brain. Prevagen supplements these proteins and has been clinically shown to improve memory. It’s safe and effective. For support of healthier brain function, a sharper mind and clearer thinking, try Prevagen today.”

What’s in Prevagen?

The key ingredient appears to be something called apoaequorin.

The company states:

“The use of apoaequorin, which was originally discovered in jellyfish, is patented by Quincy Bioscience for use in a variety of products to support cognitive function. In a computer assessed, double blinded, placebo controlled clinical study, Prevagen improved certain aspects of cognitive function over a 90 day period.*”

The asterisk at the end of that paragraph is associated with the following message:

“* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.”

What Does the Research Reveal?

We found a clinical trial in the National Library of Medicine in a journal called Advances in Mind-Body Medicine, Winter, 2016. The Title is “Effects of a Supplement Containing Apoaequorin on Verbal Learning in Older Adults in the Community.”

The Conclusions:

“The results indicated a strong relationship between apoaequorin and improvements on a quantitative measure of cognitive function, specifically verbal learning. The study found that apoaequorin is a well-tolerated supplement that improved cognitive function in aging adults. The results suggest potential utility for apoaequorin in addressing the declines in cognitive function associated with aging.”

What Did the Federal Trade Commission Say?

On its website the FTC released the following statement (January 9, 2017):

“The Federal Trade Commission and New York State Attorney General have charged the marketers of the dietary supplement Prevagen with making false and unsubstantiated claims that the product improves memory, provides cognitive benefits, and is ‘clinically shown’ to work.

“The extensive national advertising campaign for Prevagen, including TV spots on national broadcast and cable networks such as CNN, Fox News, and NBC, featured charts depicting rapid and dramatic improvement in memory for users of the product. In fact, the complaint alleges, the marketers relied on a study that failed to show that Prevagen works better than a placebo on any measure of cognitive function.”

“The marketers of Prevagen preyed on the fears of older customers 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.”

The FTC was seeking refunds for customers who purchased the pricey pills. The company, Quincy Bioscience, disagreed with the FTC and maintained that the complaint was unfounded and inaccurate.

According to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman:

“The marketing for Prevagen is a clear-cut fraud, from the label on the bottle to the ads airing across the country. 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.”

How Did the Company Respond to These Accusations?

Quincy Bioscience released the following statement in response to the FTC and New York Attorney General:

“We vehemently disagree with these allegations made by only two FTC commissioners. This case is another example of government overreach and regulators extinguishing innovation by imposing arbitrary new rules on small businesses like ours.

“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. This evidence includes preclinical rat studies, canine studies, human clinical studies, and, most importantly, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled human clinical testing. This type of testing has long been acknowledged by both the FTC and the FDA to be the ‘gold standard’ for scientific evidence.

“The FTC does not allege that Quincy’s principal clinical study fails to meet the FTC’s and FDA’s own definition of ‘gold standard,’ nor does the FTC allege that the study was poorly designed or inappropriately conducted, or that it failed to rely on scientifically-validated measures.

“The sole dispute rests on the interpretation and analysis of the data, with the regulators attempting to hold the company to a standard that is unreasonable, scientifically debatable, and legally invalid. Their experts simply disagree with ours over how to interpret the study results. The FTC should not be the arbiter in matters of scientific debate. We are proud of the work we have done to support Prevagen’s effects and believe our large body of evidence clearly satisfies the longstanding standard to support such claims.”


The Dismissal of the Lawsuit:

In the legal battle between Quincy Bioscience and the FTC and the New York Attorney General, the maker of Prevagen prevailed. The lawsuit against Quincy Bioscience was dismissed by a federal judge on September 28th, 2017.

According to the blog Natural Products Insider by Josh Long, the key issue in the lawsuit had to do with an interpretation of the results from the “Madison Memory Study.” This double-blind, placebo-controlled study provided the basis for advertising statements made by Quincy Bioscience about Prevagen.

According to Natural Products Insider:

“Although the study failed to show any statistically significant results for the study population as a whole, statistically significant results were identified among certain subgroups.

“In one subgroup, for example, participants showed statistically significant improvements over individuals who received the placebo in three of nine tasks: measuring memory; psychomotor function; and visual learning.”

“…But in granting the defendants’ motion to dismiss the federal claims, the judge found the lawsuit neglected ‘to do more than point to possible sources of error but cannot allege that any actual errors occurred.’

“…The complaint, the judge concluded, failed to demonstrate ‘reliance upon the subgroup data ‘is likely to mislead consumers acting reasonably under the circumstances,’ as is necessary to state its claim.'”

A spokesman for Quincy Bioscience remarked:

“We are pleased with the decision and we continue to believe that we have presented substantial scientific support for the claims made in advertising for Prevagen.”

People’s Pharmacy Perspective:

You will no doubt continue to see commercials for Prevagen on television. With the lawsuit dismissed, the company will continue to sell this product.

In the meantime, if you would like to learn about other things you can do to maintain cognitive function, you might appreciate an interview we conducted with a highly regarded neuroscientist. Show # 1061: Which Popular Drugs Can Do Unexpected Harm?

Murali Doraiswamy, MD, is Professor of Psychiatry and Medicine at Duke University Health System. He is a member of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences and directs a clinical trials unit that has developed products to treat neurological disorders. Dr. Doraiswamy is co-author of The Alzheimer’s Action Plan. He has also served as an advisor to leading government agencies, healthcare businesses, and patient advocacy groups.

Another interview that we think might be very helpful is Show #1092: How Can You Overcome Alzheimer Disease?

Dale Bredesen, MD, is an internationally recognized expert in aging and neurodegenerative diseases. He is Professor of Neurology at the University of California, Los Angeles and founding President and CEO of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging. Dr. Bredesen is also the Co-founder of MPI Cognition and author of The End of Alzheimer’s: The First Program to Prevent and Reverse Cognitive Decline.

Revised: 10-4-17

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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I just started 30 days ago and will try for 90 days. I do hope it works.

I am a 68 year old female and have been noticing a problem with short term memory loss and cognitive thinking. A friend suggested I give Prevagen a try, so I purchased regular strength, and noticed a wonderful difference and improvement in about two weeks. My thinking is clearer, and I am more focused and alert. Prevagen has improved my quality of life, and I feel blessed to have learned about it. Therefore, I will continue to take it. I have nothing but praise for the benefits of this product! However, I do wish the cost was lower.

I take Prevagen and think it is amazing. I always had a good memory but now I amuse myself
when remembering long forgotten details – like friends I knew as a child, and like the interior of old friend’s/relatives’ homes, etc.
I never have been good at recognizing faces – I wonder if Prevagen will help there, too. BUT –
Why are we wasting money paying for the FTC to disperse false so-called ‘knowledge’. Hmmm ?
I also take EDTA to chelate toxins from the body/brain and think it is equally important.

Unless this were some kind of neurotoxin (i.e., psychotrophic) of some sort, how can Prevagen possibly work when the only foods the brain can take in are sugar and oxygen. Tell me that. And before taking in some product from the ocean–ask yourself just how SAFE is that considering Japan’s Fukushima melt down is still pouring out radioactivity into the ocean and the water is polluted with mercury and a plethora of other toxic substances.

The irony is that Jellyfish are so primitive they don’t even have a brain.

I have taken Prevagen for the past six months. I have no positive information that this over the counter item has improved my thought process, present or past. However, I do believe it has assisted my memory and therefore I remain purchasing thou I have located a source that offers price lower than from Walgreen, CVS, etc. It is via mail order.
I also would sure appreciate learning one way or the other that Prevagen is beneficial or not. Cmore, FL

I think before people start spending big bucks they should first read up on all of the meds they take. A surprising number can have sedating or cognitive effects. I personally am very sensitive to anticholinergics and try to stay far away. Many other drugs for non life threatening problems can be taken PRN. I think you can eat healthy, exercise and sleep well w/o a draconian regimen.

Don’t think that your doctor is aware of the problems with anticholinergics or even which drugs are anticholinergics.

Just because the FDA did not approve usage of Prevagen, does not mean it is not useful for memory deficits.

FDA also does not approve aspirin or natural thyroid supplements, to name a few. I take natural thyroid because the artificial levothyroxine [synthroid is a brand name] does nothing for my hypothyroidism. I feel a hundred times better on the natural and can stay awake more hours in the day than when I was on generic synthroid. FDA came out again this year ignoring the results people are having with natural thyroid supplements and the issues many of us have with the generic synthroid. I guess the pharmaceutical companies got involved — wonder what the payout to the FDA people was…

At 58 years old, I have taken Prevagen for 5 months, and quit, not because it doesn’t work, but because I find it expensive. My money can be better used in other dietary supplements, which positive effects on aging are well documented. Therefore, the following is a personal experience testimony, and in no way pretends to count towards validated scientific data. It could well describe a placebo effect, but it may on the other hand just be real.

After 2 months of a daily intake of the regular strength version of Prevagen, I clearly noticed my memory to improve. As a waiter in a large fancy restaurant, I had to learn a whole lot of trivial new daily information on menu specials, drinks and so on. Waiter was a new job for me (I’m a former management consultant). So, I also had to learn many new things and I found it difficult. I finally found some comfort with Prevagen. I could durably remember what I was being taught. Moreover, the positive effects I experienced were not limited to short term memory. I started to remember very old facts and emotions of my life, some to childhood, which I would have thought had been lost forever. I would describe it as enriched thinking – a new ability left unmatched to this day. On a scale of 1 to 10, I give Prevagen a subjective 7.5 for effectiveness.

I quit Prevagen not because it doesn’t work, but because I no longer desperately need it. Then, the noticeable positive effects went away fairly quickly. But, I would definitely start again if the price dropped to about half of what it is today.

My mother is 82 years old and has also been taking Prevagen for over 1 year. She also describes an accrued ability to remember long time forgotten facts, events and feelings. She wouldn’t quit for anything.

Is it placebo or real? I don’t know. But, it’s definitely worth something.

The pay out was not being murdered. Have you seen over 100+ Dr.s have been murdered for trying to bring fourth there cures for cancer & many, many cures for so many debilitating, life threatening diseases. Even Aides. There were 3 more added deaths in Oct. 2017.

“The furor over this dietary supplement will have to work its way through the court system. Until that is resolved, it would be inappropriate for us to venture an opinion about the effectiveness of apoaequorin for cognitive function.”

This is absurd and does no justice to your readers.

I had the exact same reaction as Larry when reading this passage. The court system is not designed to determine scientific validity. A court outcome only tells us what the legal solution was.

I just bought 30 capsules today of Prevegen. I really, really want to know if it really helps with elderly memory loss.

Think about this. Each capsule costs $1.50 or more. Please, show me the science on this product so I know I’m not wasting my money. Rich M. Towson, MD

We wish there was an independent study we could point to. Right now, we have seen nothing more than we included in the post.

I do not understand why, if Prevagen is really supposed to work, that the makers of this supplement do not get reliable independent third party studies like from United States Pharmacopeia (USP) to back their claims.

To CP: Your post doesn’t sound silly at all. You state that you gave your aging dog the “doggy version of Prevagen.” Could you please tell me what that is and where I can get it? Thank you very much.

Not many supplements do. I take supplements because I don’t eat right. They all say the same thing about not being approved. It doesn’t mean much to me. I’m getting the things I don’t eat right as my blood test show they work. I use ANDREW LESSMANS PRODUCTS. He’s also on HSN

Pioneers like Dr. Perlmutter may lead the way to a better life for seniors in the future. Though, truth to be told, I found his regimen to be somewhat draconian and feel that people who ordinarily watch commercial TV would have great difficulty in following it.

That is because TV is great propaganda for junk food. Once we clean up our environment and people do not accumulate poisons over the course of their lifetime, once we begin education on good food practices early in life, ditto for exercise, we may enter into a golden age of health that extends to seniors and offers less degeneration and cognitive decline.

As to now: read his books, read several others by Dr. Mercola, Dr. Wahls, et al, and make the changes suggested within. Remember the brain and body you have took the years of your life to reach, do not expect to be a different person after a few days. Keep at it, incorporate meditation, exercise, a low carb way of eating with lots of veggies and coconut oil. The coconut oil makes it possible to eat more veggie carbs and still stay in ketosis.

Thank you for bring up this topic. I would suggest: 1) Exercise 2) Keep socially active 3) Avoid sedating medications and others that are high-risk for elderly.

I’ve been struggling with short-term memory loss, which is very distressing because I don’t feel old enough to be going through this (although I’m sure I’m not the only one with this lamentation!). I’ve been using on organic mushroom supplement, called lion’s mane (from a naturopath’s recommendation), which does seem to be helping.

This may sound silly, but my aging dog was showing signs of canine cognitive decline (doggie Alzheimer’s) and I gave him the doggie version of prevagen. It worked. He regained his cognitive function like a younger dog, stopped acting confused, stopped wandering aimlessly. I had another dog ten years ago that the vet gave me doggie Aricept for cognitive decline. That worked as well. I would think both are well worth trying for pets or people.

When I started on Gabipentin for my non-diabetic neuropathy in my feet, my memory started slipping. I was miss-spelling words while typing, and having trouble finding the right word at the end of a sentence, sometimes even slurring my words. When I took Alpha Lipoic acid and B-12, I was able to cut the gabipentin in half, and that helped some. I bought some Vinpocetin, 10 mg. I’ve been taking one a day (the bottle says 1 to 3 tablets a day), and have noticed I’m some better.

The slurring is gone, I’m spelling better, but not perfect. I still have some trouble finding the right word, or important word while speaking. I’m 71, a female. If possible, eat the right foods for health, and try hard to stay away from prescription drugs. All have terrible side affects. My husband and I just watched a program on Net Flix called “Food Choices”. It was very enlightening!

The FDA has not approved Prevagen. That means something.

I see this about Prevagen, “In a computer assessed, double blinded, placebo controlled clinical study, Prevagen improved certain aspects of cognitive function over a 90 day period.” The operative word is “certain”.

When measuring mental function there are multiple indexes, verbal, math, recall, etc. By chance along one of these indexes might look improved. The analysis has to be corrected for the number of questions asked. It is possible a corrected analysis was not done.

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