Over 200 Australians with dementia will soon be joining one of the nation's largest clinical trials for a medicine of this kind when NICM begins its study into sailuotong.
A complex combination of ginseng, ginkgo and saffron, sailuotong has been scientifically developed and systematically studied in the laboratory and clinical trials.
These preliminary studies have shown sailuotong improves the cognitive and memory impairment associated with vascular dementia.
Vascular dementia, the second most common form of dementia, is associated with numerous mini strokes, some of which may be undetectable to the patient, along with hypertension and diabetes. The result is memory loss and a decline in cognitive ability.
Roughly 340,000 Australians live with dementia, of which 20-30% are thought to suffer from vascular dementia, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. In Australia, there is a new case of dementia every six minutes.
There is currently no single specific treatment for vascular dementia. However, if the Phase III clinical trial is successful, sailuotong will be a frontline treatment for thousands of people across the world, said Dennis Chang, of the National Institute of Complementary Medicine at Western Sydney University.
"Current pharmaceutical drug treatments for vascular dementia are ineffective because they don't address the multiple factors associated with the disease," said Associate Professor Chang, who is the clinical trial’s chief investigator.
"However in Chinese medicine, the combination of several herbal compounds which work together to address different causes and symptoms of a disease is common.
"Preliminary studies of sailuotong showed it increased blood flow to the brain and those taking the herbal medicine improved their scores on standard cognitive tests.”
Complementary Medicines Australia, the natural supplements industry body, has welcomed the announcement.
“This is promising news for the large number of Australians who suffer from this type of dementia, and for their carers and their families,” said Carl Gibson, its chief executive.
“Over the last 20 years, there has been exponential growth in the body of scientific knowledge in support of the use of complementary medicines, despite our industry not having received the same level of significant government funding that pharmaceutical medicines have enjoyed.
“In addition, greater investment by industry has been hindered by a lack of patentability or other incentives to innovation.”
Innovative products like sailuotong, Gibson said, provided the “engine of growth” for the Australian complementary health industry when they were developed and tested by rigorous research.