Despite legal dispute over memory claims, Quincy Bioscience still spends big on promotion

By Hank Schultz contact

- Last updated on GMT

Quincy Bioscience photo.
Quincy Bioscience photo.

Related tags: Federal trade commission

Despite a high profile legal wrangle with FTC and with the New York Attorney General, memory support supplement manufacturer Quincy Bioscience has enough revenue in the tank to afford a high-dollar sponsorship of a NASCAR racing team.

The Madison, WI-based privately held manufacturer of memory support supplement Prevagen announced last week that it will sponsor driver Josh Bilicki in all three of the racing circuit’s road course races this season. (Most NASCAR races are on oval tracks.) Bilicki drove the No. 8 B.J. McLeod Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro at Watkins Glen in upstate New York on August 5, and will compete at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and Road America, in Elkhart Lake, WI later this month.

Partial sponsorship in lower circuit

The races are part of NASCAR’s so-called XFINITY series, which is a ‘minor league’ circuit for drivers seeking to move up the top level of stock car competition. The details of the sponsorship agreement were not disclosed, but according to NASCAR.com​, a ‘primary sponsorship’ allows a team to have its logo on the hood of the car and in several other locations, and to choose the team colors. Based on the photo supplied with the press release, this is the sponsorship level that Quincy Bioscience has contracted for.

As for the dollar amount, NASCAR.com​ has this to say: “According to Adweek, a primary sponsorship in 2013 cost anywhere from $5 million to $35 million. In 2013, an associate sponsorship cost anywhere from $250,000 to $2 million.​ As far as can be determined, this was the last time a public information source assessed the costs of this type of sponsorship. The sport has been struggling with falling attendance and TV viewership rates since then, so it’s anyone’s guess whether those costs still hold true. Quincy is only sponsoring three races in the lower circuit, according to the press release, so the cost of the contract would be some subset of the prices quoted above.

Dispute over memory claims

Quincy Bioscience is locked in a legal dispute with the Federal Trade Commission and the office of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. In January, FTC and NYAG sued Quincy Bioscience alleging that the marketers relied on a study that failed to show that Prevagen works better than a placebo on any measure of cognitive function​. Prevagen is based on an active ingredient called apoaequorin, a protein derived from jellyfish.

The marketers of Prevagen preyed on the fears of older consumers 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.

“We vehemently disagree with these allegations”

Quincy Bioscience responded strongly to the complaint, and issued this statement: 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.

Quincy has amassed a large body of evidence that Prevagen improves memory and supports healthy brain function,​the company said. 

Quincy Bioscience lists two studies backing the ingredient on its website.  One is a safety study, the other a RCT with 211 subjects, the results of which have not been published in a peer-reviewed journal. The study’s authors claimed that despite there being no statistically significant effects observed for the entire cohort, significant results were obtained in healthy or mildly impaired subjects.

Has Quincy taken the message on claims?

Experts have told NutraIngredients-USA that the way to stay on the right of the regulations when it comes to memory claims is to match the claims language as closely as possible to the underlying evidence​. Because of the at-risk population involved (seniors living in fear of developing dementia), regulators have been inclined to accept no amount of extrapolation on claims language. 

Has Quincy taken the message? That’s a judgement call, but before the suit was filed, the company had a national TV ad campaign that featured charts depicting rapid and dramatic improvement in memory for users of the product. Now, Quincy claims this:

Prevagen, a brain health support supplement, is clinically shown to help with mild memory problems associated with aging.

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