The complaint, filed Monday against Quincy Bioscience and related companies, says marketers relied on a study that failed to prove Prevagen works any better than a placebo, officials said. It cited national TV ads extolling memory and cognitive benefits.
"The marketers of Prevagen preyed on the fears of older consumers experiencing age-related memory loss," Jessica Rich, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement
. "But one critical thing these marketers forgot is that their claims need to be backed up by real scientific evidence."
Prevagen is sold in major pharmacies. From 2007 to 2015, sales totaled $165 million, according to the complaint. A bottle includes about 30 pills and costs between $24 and $68, according to the FTC. The active ingredient is a protein derived from jellyfish.
Quincy Bioscience fired back
against what it called "an unfounded and inaccurate complaint."
"Quincy has amassed a large body of evidence that Prevagen improves memory and supports healthy brain function" the company said.
Quincy said it believes the disagreement lies in an "interpretation and analysis of the data ... their experts simply disagree with ours over how to interpret the study results."
The FTC and Schneiderman claim Prevagen's marketers have violated the FTC Act and New York state laws. The complaint aims to ban future false claims about the supplement, obtain refunds for consumers and impose civil penalties.
"The marketing for Prevagen is a clear-cut fraud, from the label on the bottle to the ads airing across the country," Schneiderman said in a press release.
The complaint was filed by two Federal Trade Commissioners in a 2-0 vote, with Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen not participating, according to the FTC. Quincy Bioscience called the suit's filing by only two commissioners "unprecedented" and noted they were both from the same political party.
"This case is another example of government overreach and regulators extinguishing innovation by imposing arbitrary new rules on small businesses like ours," the company said, vowing to defend itself.
The complaint was filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York.