Alzheimer's DementiaGinkgo

Status of ginkgo to treat Alzheimer’s disease

The problem with available prescription drugs used to treat Alzheimer’s disease is that none of them reverse the process of dementia. This graph showing the response during treatment with Aricept (donepezil) is typical (see figure 1). Following initial improvement, the response to active treatments as well as placebo declines. Following discontinuation, the level of dementia rapidly declines (gets worse) until drug-treated patients and placebo-treated patients are about the same.

The German expert panel, the Commission E, has approved ginkgo for the symptomatic treatment of “disturbed performance in organic brain syndrome” including memory deficits and disturbances in concentration. In addition, a review of four cholinesterase inhibitors and ginkgo concluded that second-generation cholinesterase inhibitors (donepezil, rivastigmine [Exelon], metrifonate [not marketed]) and ginkgo special extract EGb 761 (a standardized extract of dried leaves of ginkgo) should be considered equally effective in the treatment of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s dementia. Others have been positive, but more cautious about jumping on the ginkgo bandwagon.

Definitive study results might be available in about 3 years at the conclusion of the 6-year study of ginkgo sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Until then, remember, ginkgo is generally well tolerated but can increase the risk of bleeding. Get professional advice before taking it with warfarin (Coumadin), aspirin, or other antiplatelet agents.

7/8/06 15:28 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.