LOS ANGELES (CN) - A so-called "memory" drug allegedly based on a jellyfish protein doesn't work, and has "potentially life-threatening side-effects," a man claims in a class action lawsuit.
Leo Guevara sued Quincy Bioscience, of Madison, Wisc. in Superior Court, alleging false advertising, unfair competition and violation of California consumer laws.
Guevara says he bought the drug at issue, Prevagen, from a (nonparty) Walgreens in January. Quincy pushes the drug by claiming it "improves memory" and provides "brain cell protection," Guevara says, citing Quincy's ad materials.
"Prevagen has been clinically shown to improve memory within 90 days," boasts the product's website, checked this morning. A disclaimer in small print states: "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."
The product's box promises Healthy Brain Function, Sharper Mind and Clearer Thinking.
Guevara says that Quincy fails to warn consumers that the supplement is not only ineffective but may cause fainting, irregular heatbeat, chest pain, vertigo, tremors, seizures, strokes, and exacerbates multiple sclerosis.
Quincy was aware that the Food and Drug Administration found that Prevagen was connected to 1,000 "adverse events" to consumers from May 2008 until December 2011, Guevara says in the lawsuit.
Prevagen claims that the diet supplement includes an ingredient called apoaequorin - "a unique protein originally obtained from a specific species of jellyfish called Aequorea victoria found in the Puget Sound."
"Apoaequorin is a protein our brains need for healthy function but is diminished in the aging process," Prevagen says on its website.
But in an October 2012 letter, the FDA allegedly warned Quincy that its unapproved and synthetic version of apoaequorin should be regulated and marketed as a drug.
"Defendant's failure to warn and misleading claims, were designed to, and did, lead plaintiff and other consumers to believe that the product would only result in the stated benefits if consumed and not potentially cause these adverse events," the 12-page lawsuit states.
Guevara asks the court to enjoin Quincy from the "ongoing deception of thousands of California and nationwide consumers." He also seeks an accounting and statutory, general, special, exemplary damages and costs.
Guevara is represented by Michael Kelly with Kirtland & Packard of El Segundo.
Quincy Bioscience did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
There is no basis in science for classifying a substance as a "diet supplement" rather than a "drug." Companies can sell diet supplements with little to no regulation because complaisant regulators let them.
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