LearningRx To Pay $200K For Allegedly Unproven Claims That Brain Training Can Improve Income, Treat Autism & ADHD

The company behind the LearningRX “brain training” program has agreed to pay a $200,000 settlement and to stop making claims that its system is clinically proven to treat serious health conditions, or that it can dramatically improves a user’s IQ or income.

According to the complaint [PDF] filed with a federal court in LearningRx’s home state of Colorado, the company made numerous unsubstantiated claims in the marketing of its program.

Included among the allegedly unsubstantiated statements made by LearningRx are boasts about the program’s ability to boost IQs, and therefore income.

“Our programs raise IQ an average of 15 points in 12 weeks, and 20 points in 24 weeks,” reads one statement, while another makes the connection more explicit: “LearningRx brain training is proven to increase IQ by an average of 15 points or more. That means for every dollar spent on brain training, there’s a return of $127 over a client’s lifetime.”

The FTC also accused LearningRx of making unproven statements regarding the program’s effectiveness in treating Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Autism, and patients who had suffered strokes, and other traumatic brain injury.

Reads the language on one pamphlet for LearningRx:

Our programs guarantee improvements for:
• Students of all ages wanting to perform better in school
• Kids and adults with ADHD, autism, dyslexia and learning disabilities
• Beginning students (pre-K through 1st grade) for a strong launch into a lifetime of learning success
• Working adults looking to excel in their careers
• Senior adults who want to stay mentally sharp
• Victims of strokes and traumatic brain injuries

In addition to public statements made in the marketing of LearningRx, the FTC took issue with the company’s behind the scenes marketing, noting that LearningRx “engaged in an extensive search engine campaign through Google AdWords, purchasing hundreds of keywords related to Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), autism, memory, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and traumatic brain injury, in order to induce consumers to click on Defendants’ sponsored links to LearningRx webpages.”

Among the keyword phrases paid for by LearningRx: “autism cure,” “Asperger cure,” “severe traumatic brain injury cure,” “Alzheimers cure,” and “is there a cure for dementia.”

The FTC contends that LearningRx violated the FTC Act’s prohibitions against deceptive business practices and false advertising because they were allegedly made without sufficient substantiation.

“Companies that say they can significantly improve serious health conditions or how your brain functions in everyday situations need to back up those claims with sound science,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “In this case, the defendants couldn’t show their training provides the health or other real-world benefits they claimed.”

In settling the complaint, LearningRx denies any wrongdoing, but agrees to pay $200,000 (of a $4 million judgment against the company) and to cease making unsubstantiated claims about the performance, benefits, or efficacy of their programs. LearningRx is also barred from misrepresenting the existence or results of any tests or studies, and from providing others with the means to make the prohibited claims.

For its part, LearningRx has issued a lengthy rebuttal to the FTC announcement, arguing that the FTC is not a scientific agency and that it shouldn’t be holding brain training claims up to the same rigorous standards applied to testing of pharmaceutical drugs.