Objective: To determine the effect of treatment with Ginkgo biloba extract on objective measures of cognitive function in patients with Alzheimer disease (AD) based on formal review of the current literature.
Methods: An attempt was made to identify all English and non-English-language articles in which G. biloba extract was given to subjects with dementia or cognitive impairment. Inclusion criteria for the meta-analysis were (1) sufficiently characterized patients such that it was clearly stated there was a diagnosis of AD by either Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Revised Third Edition, or National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke-Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders Association criteria, or there was enough clinical detail to determine this by our review; (2) clearly stated study exclusion criteria, ie, those studies that did not have stated exclusions for depression, other neurologic disease, and central nervous system-active medications were excluded; (3) use of standardized ginkgo extract in any stated dose; (4) randomized, placebo-controlled and double-blind study design; (5) at least 1 outcome measure was an objective assessment of cognitive function; and (6) sufficient statistical information to allow for meta-analysis.
Results: Of more than 50 articles identified, the overwhelming majority did not meet inclusion criteria, primarily because of lack of clear diagnoses of dementia and AD. Only 4 studies met all inclusion criteria. In total there were 212 subjects in each of the placebo and ginkgo treatment groups. Overall there was a significant effect size of 0.40 (P<.0001). This modest effect size translated into a 3% difference in the Alzheimer Disease Assessment Scale-cognitive subtest.
Conclusions: Based on a quantitative analysis of the literature there is a small but significant effect of 3- to 6-month treatment with 120 to 240 mg of G. biloba extract on objective measures of cognitive function in AD. The drug has not had significant adverse effects in formal clinical trials but there are 2 case reports of bleeding complications. In AD, there are limited and inconsistent data that preclude determining if there are effects on noncognitive behavioral and functional measures as well as on clinician's global rating scales. Further research in the area will need to determine if there are functional improvements and to determine the best dosage. Additional research will be needed to define which ingredients in the ginkgo extract are producing its effect in individuals with AD.