Alzheimer's Treatment: What Drugs Can Help?

There are four drugs that are commonly used in Alzheimer's treatment. These drugs are also used to treat some symptoms of Lewy Body Dementia. There is no cure for Alzheimer's Disease at this time and all four drugs work in more or less the same way by adding back chemicals to the brain to help the brain work better.

The underlying process where the plaques are destroying connections between brain cells or destroying brain cells themselves continues. At a certain point, the drugs cannot make up for the number of brain cells that have been destroyed. Taking the drugs can hold off worsening symptoms for six to twelve months. While this may sound like a short period of time, the drugs can enhance quality of life for both the AD patient and his family and extend the amount of time the person can live independently.

Three of the four drugs are called cholinesterase inhibitors. They prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine, a chemical in the brain that is important for memory and learning. The three drugs are donepezil sold under the brand name of Aricept, rivastigmine sold under the brand name of Exelon and galantamine sold under the brand name of Razadyne.

The fourth drug, memantine sold under the brand name Namenda works by regulating the activity of glutamate, another chemical in the brain involved in learning and memory. Namenda is approved to be taken by people with AD in the middle to late stages of the disease.

Doctors are also seeing benefits from prescribing memantine in a drug cocktail that includes one of the cholinesterase inhibitors.

It is common for AD patients to take other drugs that address their behavioral symptoms such as drugs that treat depression, anxiety or agitation.

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