Is there a cure for Alzheimer's disease?

Zaldy S. Tan, MD
Geriatric Medicine

Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers are involved in a number of clinical trials, seeking to stop the disease and possibly reverse it. These promising treatments include:

  • Immune modulation through vaccination, which aims to identify the disease before symptoms begin and allow doctors to vaccinate against it
  • Curcumin (turmeric), a natural substance that may help reduce plaque in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s and prevent plaque buildup in those without the disease
  • Enzyme inhibitors that prevent the formation of abnormal proteins that doctors believe kill brain cells

These treatments are currently in the trial phase, during which scientists are testing their efficacy and safety. Find out more at the National Institutes of Health Web site.

There is no cure for Alzheimer's disease. Currently approved medications offer temporary symptomatic benefit to some patients, but even these medications always wear off and do not change the progression of the disease.

Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer's disease. Researchers are continually testing the effectiveness of various drug therapies that will control symptoms; slow, reduce and/or reverse mental and behavioral symptoms; and prevent or halt the disease. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved several medications for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease: donepezil hydrochloride (Aricept), approved for all stages of Alzheimer's disease; rivastigmine (Exelon), approved in pill and patch form for mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease; galantamine hydrobromide (Razadyne), approved for mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease; and memantine HCI (Namenda) for the treatment of moderate to severe Alzheimer's disease. Some of these medications can be used alone or in combination, and can provide some relief of symptoms and may slow the decline in mental function to some extent. The FDA has approved memantine HCI (Namenda) for the treatment of moderate to severe Alzheimer's disease, which may help slow the worsening of symptoms. Currently, research supports behavioral management interventions for individuals with dementia, as well as education, counseling and support services for caregivers.
You may have heard or read about a variety of Alzheimer's therapies on the horizon, some in the form of new drugs that may be able to cure the disease by blocking the chain of events that underlie its destructive process. Still, while scientists believe they are finally beginning to close in on this elusive disease, truly effective therapies are years away.

Currently, no treatment prevents or stops cognitive deterioration from Alzheimer's. Medications can only alleviate symptoms temporarily. The hope is that ongoing research efforts will yield therapies that bring about better, longer-lasting improvements in memory and other cognitive functions.

A number of medications exist for behavior problems, such as outbursts of anger, which sometimes develop in those with Alzheimer's. These work best when paired with environmental changes, such as simplifying the home environment.
Judith London, MD
Although there is no cure for Alzheimer's, studies indicate that there are ways we can strengthen the brain or delay the onset. Physical exercise is key, with walking as little as 3 times per week, 30-45 minutes at a time associated with an increase in brain volume in older people. A good way to think about it is: if it's good for the heart, it's good for the brain.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.