Report: Brett Favre backed concussion drug companies that overstated effectiveness, exaggerated NFL connections

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre talks to the media following their NFL football game against the Detroit Lions in Detroit, Michigan January 2, 2011.  REUTERS/Rebecca Cook  (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Brett Favre has been in hot water for the past few months due to his alleged role in the massive Mississippi welfare fraud case, and someone just turned the temperature up.

According to an extensive ESPN report, Favre financially backed two drug companies that allegedly overstated the effectiveness of their concussion drugs and their connections to the NFL.

Favre also allegedly helped the founder of both companies, Jacob VanLandingham, secure $2 million in funding for his drugs from the same Mississippi nonprofit Favre used to help fund a college volleyball stadium at his daughter's school. That money was earmarked for Mississippi welfare families, and the heads of that nonprofit have already pleaded guilty to misusing and improperly distributing those funds.

Exaggerated claims, exaggerated connections?

Prevacus and PresolMD, the drug companies founded by VanLandingham and backed by Favre (who has said he pumped $1 million of his own money into the companies), were trying to raise money for two concussion drugs: a nasal spray to treat concussions, and a cream to limit or prevent concussions. Favre and VanLandingham have done radio, TV and podcast interviews about the drugs and their benefits.

According to ESPN, VanLandingham, who has a PhD in neuroscience, had marketing documents for possible investors that touted the effectiveness of the nasal spray in reducing the swelling from a traumatic brain injury and the positive results from tests of the cream done in the NCAA and NFL. The documents also listed multiple big names in the "Key Advisory Members and Associates" section, including Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL's chief medical officer, and Jeff Miller, the NFL's executive vice president for health and safety innovation, and Dr. Brian Hainline, the NCAA's chief medical officer.

According to ESPN's report, very few of those stated connections were what they were advertised to be. In an email to ESPN, the NFL said that neither Sills or Miller were advisory members or associates of Prevacus and the NFL hadn't provided any resources or funding to the company. The NFL also said it was unaware of any team using samples of the cream. The NCAA told ESPN that Hainline had nothing to do with the company and had not agreed to have his name used on marketing materials. The collegiate organization was also unaware of any team using the cream.

As for the drugs themselves, those benefits were also exaggerated, according to the network's report. ESPN spoke to numerous scientists regarding the claims about the nasal spray and the cream, and all said that the science doesn't match what VanLandingham said the drugs would do. Neither one has been extensively tested on humans and there is no data that supports claims that the nasal spray could reduce swelling from a traumatic brain injury or that the cream can prevent or limit concussions.

VanLandingham's response

VanLandingham spoke to ESPN about its report and denied pretty much everything. He denied that he had ever said his drugs worked on humans (thus far they have been tested on animals on a limited basis). He said that the names on the "Key Advisory Members and Associates" section of his marketing pitch were not meant to be taken as official advisers, and were only people they had contacted and spoken to about the drug.

"These are other contacts that we had made," VanLandingham said. "I'm just making people aware that these are other contacts. Perhaps it would've been better separated out. ... I've never told anybody that Allen Sills was an adviser for Prevacus. Or Jeff Miller. They provided feedback, and there's been calls with both of them."

VanLandingham also told ESPN that he believes the company sent out samples of the cream to teams, but couldn't remember which teams received them and had no data about whether they were used. As for claims Favre made during interviews about the cream's healing and anti-inflammatory powers, VanLandingham said that Favre isn't a scientist and isn't as "sophisticated" as he is, and can sometimes "misstep" when discussing the science.

Favre declined to comment to ESPN.

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