Isn’t it difficult to watch your loved one suffer from Alzheimer’s disease? This degenerative disorder is a type of dementia that gradually causes loss of memory and cognitive impairment.
Someone who is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s may experience minor difficulties remembering how to perform daily tasks. However, as the condition worsens, the patient may not recognise their family and become reliant on others for care. Unfortunately, there is no curative therapy for Alzheimer’s disease; however, a number of treatment options are available that can help slow the progression of this disease.
Although Alzheimer’s disease is a complex and difficult disorder for patients and their families to deal with, knowing the scope of the disease and its therapeutic options may provide comfort to all who are affected.
Medications for Alzheimer’s disease
The FDA has approved two types of medications for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease: cholinesterase inhibitors (Acetylcholinesterase inhibitor) and the NMDA receptor antagonist (memantine). Remember that these medicines do not cure Alzheimer’s disease, but they might help treat the symptoms and maintain patients’ mental functions.
- Cholinesterase inhibitors: Cholinesterase inhibitors represent the most common group of drugs used to treat dementia in Alzheimer’s patients because the maintenance of the acetylcholine in the brain is essential (acetylcholine plays a key part in cognitive functions such as learning, memory, and attention), and these cholinesterase inhibitors work to inhibit the enzyme cholinesterase, which is responsible for acetylcholine breakdown.
Cholinesterase inhibitors may help with neuropsychiatric symptoms like agitation or depression. Cholinesterase inhibitors, which are commonly prescribed, include:
- Rivastigmine (Exelon)
- Galantamine (Razadyne ER)
- Donepezil (Aricept)
Each of these medications may be prescribed to treat a mild-to-moderate form of Alzheimer’s disease. Donepezil can be used to treat severe cases. The most commonly occurring side effects of these medicines are minor and include increased sweating, vasodilation, pupil constriction, and increased saliva and tear production. As a whole, cholinesterase inhibitors have been known to have a modest effect on the symptoms of Alzheimer’s patients.
2. NMDA receptor antagonist-Namenda (memantine)
This drug works by reducing the abnormal activity in the brain and regulating the levels of glutamate, which is involved in memory and learning, in the brain. Memantine has been shown to slow memory loss and boost cognition and mental functions in Alzheimer’s patients, allowing them to perform daily tasks relatively easily. This medication slows the progression of symptoms in those with a moderate-to-severe form of Alzheimer’s disease. It is sometimes combined with a cholinesterase inhibitor. Dizziness and confusion are side effects associated with this class of drug; however, these symptoms are uncommon.
3. Human immunoglobulin gamma 1 (IgG1) monoclonal antibody-Aducanumab (Aduhelm)
Aducanumab (Aduhelm) is the first FDA-approved treatment to target the biology of Alzheimer’s disease. This therapy, which is used to remove beta-amyloid (one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease) from the brain, has a reasonable chance of slowing down the progression of this disease by reducing functional and cognitive decline in people with early Alzheimer’s.
What are the best Alzheimer’s disease medications
The journey of each patient with Alzheimer’s disease is different, and the best medication varies with the patient. Moreover, there is no one optimum medication to treat Alzheimer’s. A patient’s response to treatment can be influenced by factors such as their medical history, age, and stage of the disease.
Having said that, there are some common medicines, which are known to assist in managing the symptoms of Alzheimer’s patients. Some of these medicines are listed here:
Name of the medication
Route of administration
NMDA receptor antagonist
galantamine (Razadyne ER)
Your doctor will determine the correct dosage for you based on your health, treatment response, age, and weight. There are other possible side effects of these medicines. This is not an exhaustive list.
4. Medications for managing behavioural changes
There is currently no medication approved for the treatment of behavioural symptoms in Alzheimer’s disease. Some people may benefit from certain medications, such as:
Antidepressants: These medications are used to treat aggression, restlessness, anxiety, and depression.
Anti-anxiety medications: These medications may be used to treat agitation.
Anticonvulsant medications: These medicines can sometimes be used to treat aggression.
Antipsychotics (neuroleptics): These are medications that can be used to treat hallucinations, agitation, and paranoia.
Side effects of Alzheimer’s disease medication
Many patients are able to take memantine and cholinesterase inhibitors without experiencing any adverse effects. Individuals who do encounter adverse reactions from these medications usually have only minor reactions. The following are a few of the frequently occurring side-effects of Alzheimer’s medications:
- Appetite loss
- Weight reduction
Alternative medications for Alzheimer’s
Various herbal remedies, vitamins, and other supplements are widely recommended as preparedness that may assist in cognitive health, protect you, or delay Alzheimer’s disease. Clinical trials have yielded inconclusive results, with very little evidence to back up the efficacy of the aforementioned supplements as treatments.
Remedial/supplemental options that that have recently been studied as a treatment course include:
- Vitamin E
- Omega-3 fatty acids
Are there any drugs for Alzheimer’s disease?
As such, there is no single drug to treat Alzheimer’s disease, but there are 2 to 3 groups of medications, including cholinesterase inhibitors (e.g., Aricept and Exelon) and NMDA receptor antagonists (e.g., Namenda), available to slow down the progression of the disease. The behavioural symptoms associated with the disease are managed symptomatically.
Do we require doctors’ prescriptions for Alzheimer’s drugs?
Alzheimer's disease drugs are prescription medications that should be taken only under the supervision of a physician because each individual requires a different medicine and dosage based on the confounding factors.
How much does the Alzheimer’s medicine cost?
The cost of Alzheimer’s medicine is usually high and depends on the medicine prescribed and the dosage.
For how long does one take Alzheimer’s medicine?
Usually, Alzheimer’s disease appears late in a person’s life, that is, after the age of 65, and the medicines have to be taken until you can tolerate them.
Who should take the Alzheimer’s medicine?
Patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease should take Alzheimer’s medicine because it can help slow disease progression, improve the overall quality of life, and allow these patients to perform their daily tasks as independently as possible.