Saturday, April 16, 2011

Neuroaid: Partial Truth and Petty Theft

Click here to find the extent of the scam.

Amendment: August 12, 2013: A well run clinical trial using 1000+ participants showed neuroaid " statistically no better than placebo in improving outcomes." Find the results here.
(Thank you Ali Hussain Ali).

From April 16, 2011:

Bottom line
  • Neuroaid is a drug that is made from traditional Chinese herbs.
  • Cost: $1,346
  • Effectiveness: The company says it works. The research disagrees.
Neuroaid has long been an easy joke among neurologists, psychiatrists and researchers. Here is an actual email:


It looks like millions of lives will be restored. How absent minded of me to tell patients that there is no “magic bullet” for all of these years…and shame on you therapists and physicians for not giving the below to your patients. Thank goodness for Neuroaid.

I really had no opinion about it because on the face the claims seemed dubious so I never took the time to unpack the research.

But that all changed when neuroaid decided to call their blog The Stroke Recovery Blog (TSRB). They did this in 2010. It is true: You cannot copyright a blog name, especially not one with a generic name like TSRB. But they picked this name for a reason: It is an established name in stroke blogs, has been around since 2008 and is generally respected. ("So when folks look for that blog, they'll find our blog- We are geniuses!")

Amendment: March 7, 2014: I have since changed the name of this blog. This had nothing much to do with neuroaids weird co-opting. It had more to do with the fact that the blog is an adjunct to the book (Stronger After Stroke).
In any case, their choosing to steal this blog's name made me realize that the company that makes neuroaid may not be completely truthful.

So I did a bit of investigation....

There are several problems with their research.
  • There is an obvious conflict of interest with regard to many of the folks involved in the research. That is, the people who are doing the research work for the company. This is bad, and it happens all the time. The profit motive may (or may not) sway the researchers to "massage the data" so that the data suggests that the product is AWESOME!!! 
  • Consider Marie Germaine Bousser of neuroaid's scientific advisory board. She is also one of the researchers of the product. The same is true with others on neuoraid's scientific advisory board. Here's my do they get away with that? The lab I work in does trials of products all the time but we have to sign conflict of interest forms that clearly separate us from the product tested. A lab can get itself in trouble  (and often through sheer osmosis, other labs at the same and related universities) when you get paid for your "research." (If you want a nerdy take on this issue, click here.) There are a few studies on neuroaid that show up in Medline. Only one of the studies, from Iran, does not involve at least one author that is on neuroaid's board.
  • Neuroaid's website has done everything they can to obfuscate. I have quite a few examples, but here's an easy one: They now call their researchers "Academic Partners," changed from "Scientific advisory board." But here's some funny: Google has not caught up. Here is a screen shot from 9.22.12.
They've also been called "Medical Experts and Investigators" for Moleac, the company that makes neuroaid (link). Also note that some of the authors on published articles work directly for Moleac, the company that makes neuroaid.
  • Neuroaid is made with "12 different Chinese herbs plus extracts of leech and scorpion." that are probably available in any Chinese drug store in any major American or European city. You can also buy some of them online. Here's one on Amazon. Here is another herb called "Strokaway." Here are more. Scorpion venom here. 
  • (Have a look at Mike's take on this in the comments section link at the bottom of this post for more info on obtaining the drug in alternative ways. Thanks Mike!) 
  • According to their site "...the price for NeuroAiD .... One month of treatment is US $488, including shipping fees. The standard 3-month treatment costs US$1,346 including shipping fees."
  • The main way of measuring the drug in their biggest clinical trail was something called the "Comprehensive Function Score component of the Diagnostic Therapeutic Effects of Apoplexy." Stroke specific outcome measures is my area. Since the late 90s I've done all kinds of tests of recovery from stroke. I've never heard of the the test they use. And there is no way to research it. Medline has no mention of it. Google only produces results that reference guess who? (Apoplexy is a term that has not been used to describe stroke since Andy Griffith!)
  • An interesting discussion here. My favorite line: "not surprised that neuro aid is expensive... I wish I could get my hands on those people."
  • Neuroaid claims it increases BDNF, a protien in the brain that helps recovery from stroke. As with many of their claims, there is a grain of truth here. They did find an increase of BDNF in one French rodent study.
  • "Alternative medicine that works is called medicine." I think my colleague's email, in blue above, suggests the primary problem. If neuroaid had reached the level of evidence that neuroaid claims then why would MDs not suggest it's use? Because MDs don't want people to recover because....uh...
  • NOTE: I don't know this drug does not work. But by any stretch, the evidence is thin. 
Bottom line:  
  • A company makes strident claims with little research to back it up.
  • Company's PR firm decides to hijack "hits" from  this blog to their profitable website disguised as a blog.  
  • Reference articles 



    Mike said...

    I had a chat with a Chinese doctor when I found out about Neuroaid when I was 6 months post-stroke.He saw the ingredients and told me that they were very popular in China, and all would cost $ 1.00.Of course Asians believe that the herbs work because of their long tradition helping patients over that side of the world together with acupuncture and massage.But hard work is the most important force that drive the recovery of patients over there.Herbs alone don't do much.

    Mike said...

    NeuroAid is equivalent to the "Great Yang Restoration Pills" popular in China but so much cheaper.Do the pills work? The Chinese prefer the freshly made tea because all synergistic components are present in the right amount.

    oc1dean said...

    They've started posting on some of the stroke blogs. And when I called them on the provided research.
    They replied back listing this research as proof.
    I read this and pointed out that this sentence in the report showed that there was no scientific benefit.
    The impact of Neuroaid treatment cannot be differentiated
    from the contribution of natural recovery, medication and physiotherapy effects. However, all cases reported
    improvements. The next day the complete post was gone and a forum representative called me a liar when I posted the exchange again and basically said that Neuroaid must have complained to the forum to get the posting deleted. The forum denied ever deleting it and came close to blackballing me again.
    Keep up the good work Pete.

    Peter G Levine said...

    Thanks Mike and Dean for your comments. Dean, I fully expect there to be some sort of fallout. Don't be surprised if this blog gets hacked somehow. I would like it if they'd contact me. Maybe I'm missing something important.

    Elizabeth, John, and Jack said...

    My question....Could it be harmful??? I'm probably doing a lot of things that might not help, maybe they will, but they're not going to hurt me. While objective clinical data is always best, to do no harm is at the top of my list too. I just want to keep getting better.I'm doing all the hard work already, adding a supplement seems like an easy add on.

    Peter G Levine said...

    There are 2 ways of looking at the safety issue. 1) This or similar drugs have been used in China for a long time. 2) There are studies on safety of what is alternatively called MLC601, Danqi Piantang Jiaonang (DJ) and MLC901. They all indicate safety. Keep in mind, there are 7 studies of the drug. Please see the reference link at the bottom of the blog entry, which I've added to help you answer your question.

    amina said...

    to mike i wanted to ask you that i had a stroke at the age of 23 im nw 24 its been jus over a yr and was hoping if its still worth going to see a chinese herbalist as ive come to a stand still in my recovery rate can u offer any help?

    jacque said...

    RE:advertisement on t.v. concerning stroke. The ad says to get treatment within 3-4 hours. But does not say that there is a new drug that must be administered within that time frame and will reverse the effects of the stroke completely. Rather than stress, or along with stressing the time frame, they should stress the benefit of the drug as well.

    jacque said...

    The AMA and the ads on t.v. need to stress not only time factor in responding to a stroke,, 3-4 hours, but also that there is a new drug that will reverse the effects of a stroke when administered in that time frame. With emphesis on the DRUG & TIME frame.

    thank you

    Evo said...

    I too fell for the touted benefits of NeuroAiD. Searching the internet for anything to help my recovery, I unfortunately took the bait, hook line & sinker. In my humble opinion, a complete waste of money.
    A lot of money!! $1400 for a one month supply. Save your money & find someone trained in traditional Chinese medicine. They can provide the exact formula at a fraction of the cost.
    On another note, I did have some good results with hyperbaric oxygen treatments

    Peter G Levine said...

    Evo: Thanks for the comment. I'm skeptical about hyperbaric.

    deirdre said...

    i just found this site...a man in the care place near my mom had some wound treatment in the hyperbaric chamber - i was told by one of the aides or nurses that as result, he had a stroke (he had it done at the hospital)

    what a shame!

    TinaMarie Alaimo said...

    Hi All,
    We used NeuroAid on our daughter, in a super dose. She got 2 capsules 4 times a day for close to 8 months when she was home after the stroke and a couple of months in a rehab hospital. She is a super miracle. Without the NeuroAid she would still be in a wheelchair and sleeping all day long. Now she DRIVES her kids to their sports and even does her own exercising now on her own. Shopping, driving, housework and cooking,, she does it all.. try it you'll like it......
    I hope you use it if you can afford it.

    Peter G Levine said...

    TinaMarie: That's great news. But, as I'm sure you know, your story is at best a case study with an "N" of 1, uncontrolled, not blinded nor with standardized outcome measures. I'm glad your daughter made fantastic progress, but there is no way to directly tie recovery to the product.

    Geofio said...

    Hi I am just about to buy neuroaid for my brother who took a stroke in march this year aged 43 ,I admit I am fifty fifty on whether to believe it or if it is a load of bull,but at same token I don't want to watch my brother suffer knowing what might have or could have been if I don't try it,I understand everybody's view on why does doctors not just prescribe it everywhere if it is so magical ,I have my own opinions on that,,anyway when. Purchase this and try my brother on this I will return here in a few months with an honest opinion,I am not the type of person who will exaggerate or kid myself on oh this has made great improvements if it has not,as I would hate anyone else in my position to waste money when they could use it on something else that could help them or a family member,so as said I will return here again,I don't give up for my brother I never ever I'll he has right hand,arm paralysis and his foot also not too good,I will monitor all of this as I go and help with his home excersises, miss Fiona McIntyre hoping I can bring great news to anyone else in this position and to my brother also he's a great person who deserves I try this for him..

    Ali Hussain Ali said...

    Chimes study failed.
    Neuroaid doesn't work
    end of story

    Peter G Levine said...

    Ali! Thank you! I was not aware! I'll amend the post.

    Andrea Hanson said...

    Two comments:
    1. Ali, please list your source info instead of just dropping a bomb like that! I am trying hard to make informed decisions. Also would love list of NeuroAid advisory board members.
    2. Also, really doubtful about hyperbarics (HBOT) causing a stroke. The depth(or atmospheres)for wounds is much greater than for CNS issues. It has a great safety rating and is showing improvements for neurocognitive deficits but not enough controlled studies for that yet. Money isn't in it because it isn't a drug that can be patented! Daughter used HBOT for cognitive insult from tumor removal, best and lasting result was improved balance! Also greater interaction with people.

    Peter G Levine said...

    Please note that the actual study is in the link at the top of this blog entry. Also, I'm not seeing where anyone claimed HBOT causes stroke. But it has no proven efficacy in humans/stroke.

    Andrea Hanson said...
    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
    Francis Dizon said...

    total waste of money.used the product for more than a year!i can testify if needed!

    Lynn said...

    Hello Geofio,
    please can you update on the outcome of your brother whom you bought nueroaid please.

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