What are treatments for Alzheimer's disease?

Elayne Forgie
Geriatric Medicine Specialist

For treatment involving medication, The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved two types of medications — cholinesterase inhibitors (Aricept, Exelon, Razadyne, Cognex) and memantine (Namenda) — to treat the cognitive symptoms (memory loss, confusion, and problems with thinking and reasoning) of Alzheimer's disease.

As Alzheimer’s progresses, brain cells die and connections among cells are lost, causing cognitive symptoms to worsen. While current medications cannot stop the damage Alzheimer’s causes to brain cells, they may help lessen or stabilize symptoms for a limited time by affecting certain chemicals involved in carrying messages among the brain's nerve cells. Doctors sometimes prescribe both types of medications together. Some doctors also prescribe high doses of vitamin E for cognitive changes of Alzheimer's disease.

Dr. Zaldy S. Tan, MD
Geriatric Medicine Specialist

Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. The FDA-approved treatment options for Alzheimer’s treat the symptoms, not the cause. The goal of the treatments is to reverse the forgetfulness and other symptoms, restoring the patient to the cognitive level of one year earlier. The drugs cannot stop the progression of the disease. They also cannot restore the memory to what it was five or 10 years earlier.

The two groups of drugs are called:

  • Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors (donepezil, rivastigmine, galantamine)
  • NMDA-receptor antagonists (memantine)
Dr. Gregory Petsko

Neurologist Dr. Greg Petsko says treatments for Alzheimer's disease are not as good as they could be. Learn more about treating this devastating condition by watching this video.

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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.