In 2011, I reviewed a product called Neutricks that claimed to help dogs with cognitive dysfunction, a condition in old dogs roughly analogous to dementia in elderly humans. At the time, there was little evidence to support the claims made for this product. Last year, I wrote an update evaluating a new study in dogs of the supposed active ingredient in this product. This study had numerous flaws and a high risk of bias, and it did not provide convincing evidence to support the use of Neutricks. I recently noticed a few additional facts about this product that add to the existing information which makes me inclined to recommend people avoid it.
The first is a recent study of the human version of the product, Prevagen, which involves flaws and biases similar to the canine study and which once again fails to provide compelling supportive evidence for this product.
Moran DL, Underwood MY, Gabourie TA, Lerner KC. Effects of a Supplement Containing Apoaequorin on Verbal Learning in Older Adults in the Community. Adv Mind Body Med. 2016 Winter;30(1):4-11.
To begin with, this study was published in the journal Advances in Mind-Body Medicine. Not exactly a reputable scientific heavyweight journal. In fact, it appears to exist primarily to publish lightweight and outright woo research not able to meet the standards of mainstream journals. As for the study itself, it showed little difference between the treatment group and the placebo group until some questionable post-hoc subgroup analyses were done. A detailed critique is already available elsewhere.
In addition, I am not the only one who has noticed that the company makes claims that go well beyond reasonable evidence. In 2012, the FDA issued a warning letter to the company, pointing out that not only was it making claims not acceptable under the minimal rules governing dietary supplements, but that since it was manufacturing the active chemical ingredient synthetically, it didn’t qualify as a supplement anyway and needed to be tested and regulated like any other new drug. What is more, the company apparently ignored numerous reports of side effects and failed to comply with quality standards for supplement manufacturing.
Sadly, the staff and political will to follow such letters with meaningful action are rarely available in today’s political climate, so the company continues to make and sell its product without going through the appropriate scientific or regulatory processes of a new drug approval. However, if the company was misrepresenting their product, ignoring reports of possible harm, and not complying with quality control standards for supplement manufacturing for their human product, there is no reason to believe they do any better with the veterinary version Neutricks.
Finally, in 2015 a class action lawsuit was filed against the manufacturer of Prevagen claiming that consumers were being misled by medical claims for which there was no legitimate supporting evidence. The courts rejected this element of the lawsuit on the technical legal grounds that only government regulators can require proof of advertising claims, not private citizens. The court did not make any ruling on the accuracy of the accusation, only that the plaintiff had no legal standing to make it in court.
However, the court allowed to stand the element of the suit claiming that the product could not work because the purported active ingredients either could not be effective taken orally because they would be destroyed by digestion (a point I made also in my original post) or because they were not present in sufficient quantity. The case is still being argued at this time.
In the five years since I originally looked into Neutricks, no compelling evidence has emerged showing it is a safe or effective treatment for dogs with cognitive dysfunction. Furthermore, the company has been warned by the FDA for making illegal claims about the human version of the product and apparently not properly handling reports of possible adverse effects. The company is also being sued by individuals who feel they were misled by the advertising claims made for the human product. While none of this amounts to conclusive evidence the product doesn’t work or is harmful, it also does not give any reason for confidence in the product or the company’s claims. Though people continue to offer positive anecdotes in response to these posts, the evidence shows that there are also negative anecdotes out there, and that regulatory authorities have concerns about the conduct of the company in promoting its human version of this product. In my opinion, the safest and most rational choice given the current information available would be to avoid this product until better evidence is provided in dogs with cognitive dysfunction.