- There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease.
- Several drug treatments may improve or stabilize symptoms
- All of these drugs are designed to prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine ,a chemical messenger in the brain that is important for memory and other thinking skills. The loss of acetylcholine form nerve cells in the Alzheimer’s brain is related to the severity of symptoms. Thus these drugs are used to temporarily improve or stabilize symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
- The drugs work to keep levels of the chemical messenger high
- Used in early or middle stages
- About half of the people who take cholinesterase inhibitors experience a modest improvement in cognitive symptoms.
FDA approved Cholinesterase inhibitors Include the following:
- Aricept ® donepezil approved in 1996
- Exelon® rivastigmine approved in 2000
- Reminyl® galantamine approved in 2001
- Cognex®) tacrine the first cholinesterase inhibitor approved in 1993 is rarely prescribed
NMDA Glutamate receptor antagonist
Memantine (Namenda® Ebixa®, Axura®) is a drug approved in October 2003 by the FDA for treatment of moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease
The first Alzheimer’s drug of this type approved in the United States.
It is different from cholinesterase inhibitors as it is designed to block a chemical known as glutamate. Glutamate is released during damage to brain cells in Alzheimer’s disease causing more damage to brain cells. Thus by blocking the release of Glutamate with Memantine brain cells can be protected.