A pilot study of oral physostigmine plus yohimbine in patients with Alzheimer disease

L. M. Bierer, P. S. Aisen, M. Davidson, T. M. Ryan, R. G. Stern, J. Schmeidler, K. L. Davis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Effective symptomatic treatment of Alzheimer's disease (AD) may require a combination of agents that augment cholinergic as well as noradrenergic neurotransmission. We conducted a pilot study of physostigmine plus oral yohimbine challenge in AD. Ten patients were enrolled in a 12-day double-blind protocol. Each patient received placebo q2h while awake for 5 days, followed by physostigmine 2 mg q2h while awake for 7 days. During each of these drug conditions, yohimbine challenges were administered at oral doses of 10 and 20 mg in a placebo-controlled manner. There was no significant improvement in Alzheimer's Disease Assessment Scale lest performance for six patients for whom complete cognitive data were obtained for the 6 challenge days. Nine patients tolerated the protocol with no clinically significant changes in blood pressure, pulse, or electrocardiogram (ECG), and no cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, or autonomic toxicity. One patient complained of chest discomfort associated with tachycardia, a modest rise in blood pressure, and had t-wave inversion in a single precordial lead. These signs and symptoms resolved within a few hours. Serial ECG tracings and cardiac enzymes revealed no evidence of myocardial injury. This pilot study did not reveal major cognitive improvement with this regimen, but underscores the importance of careful cardiovascular monitoring during future combined cholinergic-noradrenergic therapies in AD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)98-104
Number of pages7
JournalAlzheimer Disease and Associated Disorders
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1993
Externally publishedYes


  • Cholinergic therapy
  • Noradrenergic therapy
  • Physostigmine
  • Yohimbine


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