Brett Favre has never satisfactorily answered why he took a million bucks of state money, intended for needy kids, to do a radio PSA. He just kind of said that he did it, and promised to pay the money back, and then tried not to do so.
But the story of the Mississippi Boondoggle was always bigger than Favre, as the scandal of siphoning funds away from Mississippi children had tentacles. Now, Anna Wolfe of Mississippi Today, who has been on top of this entire scandal for years now, shows a connection between Favre and former Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant in directing money to a pharmaceutical company that Favre was investing in.
As Wolfe wrote:
Favre believed he could make millions as an early investor in a drug company. He just needed a little more political and financial capital to push the enterprise into the end zone.
“It’s 3rd and long and we need you to make it happen!!” Favre wrote to the governor in late December 2018, according to text messages recently obtained by Mississippi Today.
“I will open a hole,” Bryant responded, piggybacking on the football metaphor.
For Mississippi, this is a scandal involving not just a favorite son, but a former governor. For the sports world, it’s a story that involves not only a disgraced legend, but a broken promise of hope.
The pharmaceutical company that Favre was backing was Prevacus, which promised to develop a nasal spray treatment for concussions. Earlier in 2018, the company made a big splash with the backing of Favre, Abby Wambach, Kurt Warner, and David Ross, all appearing on NBC’s Today Show with Dr. Jake Vanlandingham to tout a brighter future in the battle against a scourge of an injury across all sports.
When Deadspin initially reported on the Mississippi Boondoggle two years ago, Ross declined comment through the Chicago Cubs, and neither Favre, Wambach, nor Warner replied to interview requests. Favre has made himself conspicuously unavailable to Deadspin for years, so that’s not a surprise, but nobody else seemed to want to discuss Prevacus. Vanlandingham, likewise, has never responded to a message from Deadspin.
During Wolfe’s 2020 reporting, Prevacus was important as the company that was trying to get money from the state of Mississippi, but their actual progress on developing their drug less so. Here’s what she wrote.
Economic development projects in Mississippi are typically led by the Mississippi Development Authority; Mississippi Today submitted a public records request for all emails across the agency that reference Prevacus, Presol or Vanlandingham for a nearly two-year period. The agency said none exist.
So far, Vanlandingham said Prevacus has 1) conducted toxicology for the drug on animals to establish the appropriate dosing; 2) configured the drug into a GMP-certified drug that humans can use; 3) developed a nano-formulation of the drug to reduce side effects; and 4) implemented phase one of human trials in Australia.
The first claim can’t really be verified, but “GMP-certified” means that Good Manufacturing Practices are ensured by the United States Food and Drug Association. The FDA responded to Deadspin’s FOIA request that they had nothing on file for Prevacus or its the product the company promised, Prevasol. Likewise, the Australian government maintains a database of human clinical trials, in cooperation with New Zealand. Neither country had any record of anything resembling the concussion-treating nasal spray that Prevacus promised.
The promise of Prevacus does live on today, through Odyssey Group International, which purchased Prevacus and now has an extremely shoddy-looking website with a photo of Favre, links to interviews with the quarterback by an Australian leisure management magazine and a Super Bowl week show that Favre recorded from a poorly-lit home office… and a broken link to the information page about the actual drug.
If the drug never existed, and there’s still no real evidence that it did, either somebody needs to tell Favre, or he needs to stop promoting investment in a drug that nobody’s buying anymore. And if there really is a Prevacus, that’s great, and Favre should get some business partners who are more legit, because the world would really benefit from a fast and reliable concussion treatment.