Schwabe, the manufacturer of the Ginkgo extract EGb 761(R), believes that the GEM study results do not allow a final conclusion on the potential of the extract in dementia prevention.
GEM is one of five studies that have been or are investigating the effect of standardized Ginkgo extract on the prevention of dementia. The GEM study investigated the probability of developing dementia in 3069 subjects (average age on entry 79 years) receiving either 240 mg EGb 761(R) or placebo daily. Over the 6-year treatment period, compliance fell to only 60%.
Previous results from two epidemiological studies in France showed a positive influence of EGb 761(R) on the onset of Alzheimer's and length of survival without dementia, thus raising expectations that EGb 761(R) might prove useful in this context. Earlier this year an NIH sponsored study showed a positive effect of standardized Ginkgo biloba extract on the risk of developing dementia only in those participants who took their medicine regularly. Another large scale study with EGb 761(R), the GUIDAGE study with 2854 patients aged 70 and above, is currently ongoing in France. Schwabe believes that the results of that study should be awaited before a fuller assessment of the potential of EGb 761(R) in dementia prevention can be made.
It is also important to note that the outcome of the GEM study in no way affects or detracts from the efficacy of EGb 761(R) in the treatment of manifest Alzheimer's as proven in a number of clinical studies, e.g. most recently presented at the International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease (ICAD) in Chicago in July 2008. There, EGb 761(R) was shown to improve cognition as well as neuropsychiatric symptoms and activities of daily living in dementia patients. Furthermore, it not only benefited the patients themselves but in addition provided significant relief to the care-giving relatives.
To date, there are no medications available for prevention of dementia and all attempts to demonstrate prophylactic action have so far failed. This applies to approved dementia drugs as well as to other active substances such as acetylsalicylic acid, vitamin E, hormones, or NSAIDs.
This makes it all the more important to support the cognitive performance at an appropriately early stage. EGb 761(R) has recently been shown to improve concentration as well as memory and learning ability in individuals over 45 with mild cognitive deficits .
Dr. Willmar Schwabe Pharmaceuticals, headquartered in Karlsruhe, Germany, was founded in 1866. For more than 140 years, Schwabe Pharmaceuticals has been dedicated to providing patients and health care professionals with clinically proven herbal medicines and natural health care solutions. Today, the group is the global leader in the manufacturing of herbal medicines.
 Hoerr R, Grass-Kapanke B, Tribanek M, Kaschel R. Effects of Ginkgo biloba extract EGb 761(R) on cognition and quality of life in subjects with very mild cognitive impairment. International Journal of Psychology 2008;43:404.