Alzheimer's disease (AD)
is a complex disease. It doesn't conform to one-size-fits-all treatments. Researchers
believe that customized approaches using different medications can help most
people. Here is a summary of the current AD medications.
Current Medication Options
According to the National Institute on Aging, the FDA has approved four AD medications. They
don't affect everyone in the same way and the benefits can diminish over time.
You should talk to your doctor about your options.
The four medications
- donepezil (Aricept): for mild, moderate, and severe AD symptoms;
common side effects include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
- galantamine(Razadyne): for mild and moderate AD symptoms; common
side effects include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, and loss of
- memantinen (Namenda): for moderate and severe AD symptoms, but not
for mild AD symptoms (currently there’s little evidence of benefit in the
early stages of AD); common side effects include dizziness, headache,
constipation, and confusion.
- rivastigmine (Exelon): for mild and moderate AD symptoms;
common side effects include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, loss
of appetite, and muscle weakness.
How Do These Medications Work?
control the chemicals that transmit messages between neurons called
"neurotransmitters." This helps to maintain thinking and memory, and
manage some behavioral problems.
Which Medication is Best?
No published study has
compared the four drugs. They appear to work in similar ways. They all affect
the level of a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. Switching from one
medication to another will not produce different results.
What About Non-AD-Specific Medications?
Some medications can
temporarily treat, or at least ease, AD symptoms. These include
antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, sleep aids, and antipsychotics. They help
with symptoms like:
- severe aggression
It’s essential to
consult an experienced AD doctor in order to receive the maximum benefit from