Alzheimer's Medication

Living With Alzheimer's

At this time there is no medical cure for Alzheimer's disease. However, there are different types of drugs prescribed for those at various stages of the disease. These drugs do not stop or reverse the disease. They help cognitive abilities and behavioral symptoms for a few months to a few years. The drugs may help in stabilizing memory ability, language skills and processing of thoughts. Check with your physician to find out which drugs may help with depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, anger, and other behavioral problems.

There are two types of drugs currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration. They are: (1) cholinesterase inhibitors and (2) memantine.

Cholinesterase inhibitors These particular drugs target symptoms such as memory loss, thought processes, and language skills. They delay symptoms for about six to twelve months in the Alzheimer's patients. Only half of the people respond successfully to these types of drugs. Common side effects include increased frequency of bowel movement, nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite. However, most people can tolerate these inhibitors.

The cholinesterase inhibitors currently approved are:
Donepezil (Aricept) – treats all stages of Alzheimer's, commonly prescribed.
Galantamine (Razadyne) – treats mild to moderate stages of Alzheimer's, commonly prescribed.
Rivastigmine (Exelon) – treats mild to moderate stages of Alzheimer's, commonly prescribed.
Tacrine (Cognex) – This drug is prescribed rarely due to the serious side effects. This was the first cholinesterase inhibitor approved.


This drug can be used by itself or in conjunction with other cholinesterase inhibitors listed above. It is prescribed to help people with their memory, perform simple tasks, and the ability to reason. Namenda (Memantine) – treats moderate to severe stages of Alzheimer's.Possible side effects are confusion, constipation, dizziness, and headache.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E, in high doses, has been used to treat cognitive symptoms of Alzheimer's. However, vitamin E should never be taken to treat Alzheimer's unless under the supervision of a physician. High doses of vitamin E can slightly increase the risk of death, and interfere with medicines prescribed for blood clotting and cholesterol.

Alternative Treatments

There are a growing number of alternative treatments claiming to slow down or prevent Alzheimer's disease. Some of them include vitamins, herbal remedies, and dietary supplements. Valid concerns arise if these are used to replace or in conjunction with physician prescribed medications. Unless approved by the FDA, bad reactions of a product are not monitored. There is no guarantee of the purity of the product. Also, no scientific research is necessary to prove the validity of any claims made for dietary supplements. These are legitimate concerns that should be weighed out when deciding to use for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease.

Medicines on the Horizon for Alzheimer's Disease Scientists are researching the toxic effects of beta-amyloid found in brains of people with Alzheimer's disease. Preliminary testing on humans to determine future therapies for removing, halting, or breaking down the early harmful effects of beta-amyloid is currently underway. Researchers are looking at the relationship of nonsteroidal inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in the development of Alzheimer's disease.

Before Taking Alzheimer's Medication

Always let your physician and pharmacist know what other prescriptions drugs, and non-prescription drugs such as over-the-counter drugs you may be taking. Also include any alternative preparations you may be using. This is to avoid any medication interaction or side effects that may be harmful.

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