Dementia study to trial Chinese medicine

A real human brain on exhibition in the UK. Source: Getty Images

A herbal medicine that appears to have shown promise in treating one type of dementia in China is entering its largest clinical trial in Australia.

A herbal medicine that appears to have shown promise in treating one type of dementia in China is entering its largest clinical trial in Australia.

More than 200 people living with the condition are being recruited for a trial with the Sydney-based National Institute of Complementary Medicine after a deal was struck with one of China's largest drug manufacturers.

Rachael Hocking reports.

Experts say vascular dementia is the second most common type of dementia affecting more than 340,000 Australians living with the condition.

It's caused when supply of blood to the brain is impaired, diminishing function.

Now, there are hopes a Chinese herbal medicine -- which combines common plants and spices -- can give sufferers a way to combat some of the effects on memory and cognition.

Sailuotong, or SLT, was developed and tested by a team from Xiyuan Hospital, the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences in Beijing and the NICM at Western Sydney University.

Professor Alan Bensoussan, from the National Institute, says initial studies of the drug overseas have shown positive results.

"It's actually three Chinese herbs that have been used historically for improving cognition and memory impairment. And over the past ten years it's been developed with a whole lot of pre-clinical and clinical studies largely in China, but we've also been collaborating with our partners in China and now they've just finished a 15-hospital clinical trial in China with 340 [or so] patients. And over a six-month and 12 month period, there's been a clear improvement in cognitive function."

Professor Bensoussan says the Phase-III Australian clinical trial beginning in January will involve more than 200 patients across five hospital clinics in New South Wales.

He says it will be funded by one of China's largest drug manufacturers, Shineway Pharmaceutical Group.

Professor Dennis Chang, also from the National Institute, says recruitment of potential candidates has begun in NSW, and will eventually role out to other states.

He says the selected participants will be given two capsules twice daily for 52 weeks, but won't know if they're receiving a placebo or SLT.

"What we are trying to do is recruit 226 vascular dementia patients and then to randomly allocate them into a placebo group and the treatment group, and then evaluate the effectiveness, and monitor the safety as well."

Professor Chang says while SLT is not intended as a cure, it's hoped the drug can offer people with vascular dementia a better quality of life.

"Which means that they will be able to live a more meaningful life -- like I said -- their quality of life will improve because they improve memory, the [improvement] of cognitive function, executive function -- which allows them to perform daily activities without problem."





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