SUNDAY, June 11 (HealthDay News) -- Can a compound derived from the Chinese club moss Huperzia serrata improve brain function in Alzheimer's patients?
That's a question U.S. researchers hope to answer as they recruit participants for a new clinical trial on the compound, called huperzine A, from 28 sites across the country.
The Phase II clinical trial to determine the safety and efficacy of huperzine A will enroll about 150 patients, age 55 and older, with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease. Huperzine A is a naturally occurring cholinesterase inhibitor that's commonly used in China to treat Alzheimer's.
Chinese studies have suggested it is well tolerated and effective. However, there have been no controlled clinical trials of huperzine A outside of China.
"Based on studies in China, huperzine A may be more effective and better tolerated than currently prescribed drugs for Alzheimer's disease. In addition, laboratory studies suggest that huperzine A may have unique effects that could slow down the progression of the disease," Dr. Paul Aisen, leader of the new study and professor of neurology at Georgetown University Medical Center's Memory Disorders Program, said in a prepared statement.
"This trial is essential to better understand the promise of huperzine A," Aisen said. "Though it is a rigorous placebo-controlled trial, all participants do receive the active medication. The first portion of the trial, lasting 16 weeks, includes a placebo arm, but all participants have the opportunity to take active huperzine A for at least eight months.
The study, directed by Georgetown University researchers, is funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and Neuro-Hitech Pharmaceuticals Inc.
The Alzheimer's Association has more about huperzine A and other alternative treatments for Alzheimer's.