Tampa diet supplement firm pays $1.4 million settlement over 'brain power' pill claims

KeyView settles FTC claims that advertising for its memory loss aid Procera was deceptive.
Published July 9 2015
Updated July 10 2015

For $79 a bottle, the Tampa-based distributors of a dietary supplement called Procera AVH promised to reverse memory loss.

"If you have ever dreamed of traveling back in time, this drug-free compound may be the next best thing," one print advertisement trumpeted.

The claims drew many skeptics — including the Federal Trade Commission, which accused KeyView Labs of deceptive business practices in a complaint filed last week.

KeyView and several affiliated companies agreed to a $1.4 million settlement in a stipulation also filed last week in a California district court.

"The defendants in this case couldn't back up their claims that Procera AVH would reverse age-related mental decline and memory loss," said Jessica Rich, who oversees the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection.

KeyView company officials told the Tampa Bay Times on Thursday that they had removed the marketing claims from all packaging labels and were no longer using them in advertisements.

"Reflecting this, we have recently launched a new marketing campaign undergirded by additional research and testing to ensure both the efficacy and safety of the Procera AVH brand," the company said in a statement.

Procera has been on the market for about a decade.

The over-the-counter supplement has three main ingredients, product developer Joshua Reynolds told the Times in 2010: a Chinese club moss extract plant called huperzine A; a periwinkle flower extract called vinpocetine; and a substance naturally found in the body called acetyl-l-carnitine.

For years, company executives touted the formula's ability to enhance memory and boost cognitive skills, marketing the product through infomercials, radio spots and slick direct mail advertisements. One print ad, which appeared in newspapers nationwide including the Tampa Bay Times in 2013, claimed the product "lights up aging brains like a Christmas tree!"

Procera tapped into a national craze for dietary supplements. Procera sales had totaled $60 million by 2012 and climbed to nearly $100 million two years later, according to the FTC complaint.

But the product had long evoked skepticism from doctors.

Dr. Amanda Smith, medical director at the University of South Florida Health Byrd Alzheimer's Institute, told the Times in 2010 that so-called brain power pills like Procera gave people "false hope."

Complaints posted to online message boards suggest that delivery was also a problem.

At least one customer who paid for Procera but never received the product in the mail filed a complaint with the state this year, records show. She later received a refund.

The complaint from the FTC focused on the memory and concentration claims. The FTC accused KeyView of "deceptive acts" and "the making of false advertisements" and dinged founder Reynolds for "unsubstantiated expert endorsement claims."

KeyView is free to continue marketing, distributing and selling its dietary supplement — as long as it does not claim Procera "improves or restores memory, mental clarity, focus, concentration (or) mood" or "stops or reverses cognitive or mental decline."

Company officials say they plan to comply with the order.

Rich, of the FTC's consumer protection bureau, said the case was a cautionary tale for consumers.

"Be skeptical of ads promising quick and easy cures," she said.

Contact Kathleen McGrory at [email protected] or (727) 893-8330. Follow @kmcgrory.

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