The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved two types of New Alzheimer’s Disease Medications, cholinesterase inhibitors (Aricept, Exelon, Razadyne) and memantine (Namenda) — to treat the cognitive symptoms (memory loss, confusion, and problems with thinking and reasoning) of Alzheimer’s disease. There is also a medication that compound one of the cholinesterase inhibitors (donepezil) with memantine called Namzaric.
As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, brain cells die and connections between cells are lost, causing cognitive symptoms to worsen. While current Alzheimer’s Disease Medications cannot stop the damage Alzheimer’s causes to brain cells, they may help reduce or stabilize symptoms for a limited time by affecting certain chemicals involved in carrying messages among the brain’s nerve cells. Doctors sometimes prescribe both types of new Alzheimer’s Disease Medications together.
Alzheimer’s Disease Medications for early to moderate stages
All of the prescription Alzheimer’s Disease Medications currently approved to treat Alzheimer’s symptoms in early to moderate stages Of Alzheimer’s Disease are from a class of drugs called cholinesterase inhibitors. Cholinesterase inhibitors are prescribed to treat symptoms related to memory, thinking, language, judgment and other thought processes.
- Prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine (a-SEA-til-KOH-lean), a chemical messenger important for learning and memory. This supports communication among nerve cells by keeping acetylcholine levels high.
- Delay or slow worsening of symptoms. Effectiveness varies from person to person.
- Are generally well tolerated. If side effects occur, they commonly include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite and increased frequency of bowel movements.
Medication for moderate to severe stages
A second type of medication, memantine (Namenda) is approved by the FDA for treatment of moderate to severe Alzheimer’s.Memantine is prescribed to improve memory, attention, reason, language and the ability to perform simple tasks. It can be used alone or with other Alzheimer’s disease treatments. There is some evidence that individuals with moderate to severe Alzheimer’s who are taking a cholinesterase inhibitor might benefit by also taking memantine.
- Regulates the activity of glutamate, a chemical involved in information processing, storage and retrieval.
- Improves mental function and ability to perform daily activities for some people.
- Can cause side effects, including headache, constipation, confusion and dizziness.