Alzheimer's Medications

There are five drugs approved to treat Alzheimer's symptoms:

Aricept (donepezil)
Razadyne (galantamine)
Exelon (rivastigmine)
Namenda (memantine)
Namzaric (donepezil and memantine)

Prescribed for mild (early-stage) to moderate (middle-stage) Alzheimer's, Aricept, Razadyne, and Exelon belong to a class of drugs called cholinesterase inhibitors.

Cholinesterase inhibitors are thought help with Alzheimer's symptoms by preventing the breakdown of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter (chemical messenger) in the brain that's believed to be important for memory and thinking.

But since the brain produces less acetylcholine as Alzheimer's disease progresses, these drugs eventually lose their effect.

These drugs can cause gastrointestinal side effects, such as nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, and frequent bowel movements.

Namenda is an N-methyl D-aspartate (NMDA) antagonist that's prescribed for severe Alzheimer's. It works by regulating another neurotransmitter called glutamate.

Although it's important for learning and memory, glutamate in excessive amounts - such as in brains with Alzheimer's disease - can cause cell damage and death. Namenda helps prevent this from happening.

Side effects of Namenda include headache, constipation, confusion, and dizziness.

Namzaric is a combination of a cholinesterase inhibitor and an NMDA antagonist, and it's used to treat severe Alzheimer's.

Aricept is the only drug approved to treat all stages of Alzheimer's disease.

Other medications - including antidepressants, anticonvulsants, antipsychotics, anti-anxiety drugs, and sleep aids - are sometimes prescribed to treat the behavioral problems associated with Alzheimer's disease, such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, and aggression.