Efficacy of Bacopa Monnieri (Brahmi) and Donepezil in Alzheimer's Disease and Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Randomized Double-Blind Parallel Phase 2b Study

Ann Indian Acad Neurol. 2020 Nov-Dec;23(6):767-773. doi: 10.4103/aian.AIAN_610_19. Epub 2020 Dec 18.


Objectives: Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common cause of dementia worldwide in the older population. There is no disease-modifying therapy available for AD. The current standard of care drug therapy for AD is cholinesterase inhibitors, including donepezil. Bacopa monnieri or brahmi is used in traditional Indian medicine for memory loss. We conducted a phase 2b randomized controlled trial (RCT) to find out the efficacy of brahmi and donepezil in AD and mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

Patients and methods: The study was planned as a 52 week, randomized, double-blind, parallel-group, phase-2 single-center clinical trial comparing the efficacy and safety of Bacopa monnieri (brahmi) 300 mg OD and donepezil 10 mg OD for 12 months in 48 patients with AD and MCI-AD including cognitive and quality of life outcomes. The primary outcome was differences in the change from baseline of the neuropsychological tests [Alzheimer's disease assessment scale-cognitive subscale (ADAS-Cog) and postgraduate institute (PGI) memory scale] at 12 months between the intervention group (brahmi) and active comparison group (donepezil).

Results: The study was terminated after 3 years and 9 months, after recruiting 34 patients, because of slow recruitment and a high dropout rate. Intention to treat analysis after adjusting for baseline confounders showed no difference in the rate of change in ADAS-Cog score from baseline at any time point, including the last follow-up. There was no difference in the rate of change in PGI Memory scale (PGIMS) at 3, 6, and 9 months. In the last follow-up, there was a significant difference in the change in total PGIMS score between brahmi and donepezil, while there was no difference in individual scores of the PGI memory scale.

Conclusion: This phase-2 RCT on the efficacy of brahmi vs. donepezil showed no significant difference between them after 1 year of treatment. Larger phase-3 trials, preferably multicentric, are required to find the superiority of brahmi over donepezil.

Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; bacopa monnieri; brahmi; dementia; donepezil; mild cognitive impairment.