PhotoA lawsuit challenges CVS' claim that its Algal-900 DHA dietary supplement has been "clinically shown" to improve memory. The nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) says the claim is false.

In fact, says CSPI, two high-quality clinical studies found the opposite -- that omega-3 fatty acids, including DHA, work no better than a placebo at improving cognitive function. CSPI filed the class action lawsuit along with two law firms and claims that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has previously discredited the study CVS cites as evidence of the drug's usefulness.  

“CVS cites no scientific evidence that supports the outlandish memory claims used to market Algal-900 DHA supplements,” said CSPI litigation director Maia Kats. “CVS is relying on a discredited study, and one that the FTC has specifically prohibited from being used by another company in this context. And CVS is ignoring a large body of clinical testing and research on omega-3s, DHA and memory that indicates no benefit whatsoever in adults.”

"Clinically shown ..."

Packaging for Algal-900 DHA prominently states that the product provides “clinically shown memory improvement,” and that it is “the only DHA form & dosage clinically shown to improve memory.”

On the back of the label, CVS states that in a clinical study daily supplementation with 900 milligrams of algal DHA resulted in a 50 percent reduction in errors in an episodic memory test, and that the algal DHA group’s “memory improved like it was 7 years younger versus the placebo group.”

That study, known as the MIDAS study, was funded and conducted by Martek Biosciences Corporation for the purposes of promoting its own algae-based DHA supplement. But the FTC determined that the study does “not reveal any improvement in working memory” and banned Martek from basing any memory claims on it.

A 2014 meta-analysis published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at 34 studies involving 12,999 participants and concluded that consuming omega-3 fatty acids does not “promote cognitive function in terms of composite memory, executive function, and processing speed domains.”

“CVS is knowingly exploiting the fears of consumers, many elderly, who may have legitimate concerns about their memory or cognitive function, which makes these illegal claims especially concerning,” said Kats.


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