Alzheimer's Disease - Medications
There are no medicines that
can prevent or cure
Alzheimer's disease. Medicine may help some people function better by temporarily
reducing memory loss and thinking problems. Other medicines may be needed to manage behaviors or symptoms that are causing strain for the person
who has Alzheimer's disease and/or for his or her caregivers.
Medicines for memory problems
- Cholinesterase inhibitors treat symptoms of mental decline in
people who have mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease. They include
galantamine, and rivastigmine. Donepezil can be used to help those who have severe Alzheimer's disease.
- Memantine (Namenda) treats
more severe symptoms of confusion and memory loss from Alzheimer's disease.
Because these medicines work differently, they are sometimes used together (for example, memantine and donepezil).
These medicines may temporarily help improve memory and daily
functioning in some people who have Alzheimer's disease. The improvement varies
from person to person. These medicines don't prevent the disease from getting
worse. But they may slow down symptoms of mental decline.
decision about using these usually isn't
whether to try a medicine but when to begin and stop treatment.
Treatment can be started as soon as Alzheimer's disease is diagnosed.
If the medicines are effective, they are
continued until the side effects outweigh the benefits or until the person no
longer responds to the medicines.
- Alzheimer's Disease: Should I Take Medicines?
Medicines for behavior problems
Other medicines may be tried to treat anxiety,
agitated or hostile behavior, sleep problems, frightening or disruptive false
beliefs (delusions), suspicion of others (paranoia), or hallucinations (seeing
or hearing things that aren't there).
to use medicine for behavior problems, try to see what is causing
the behavior. If you know the cause, you may be able to find better ways of dealing with that behavior. You may be able to avoid treatment with
medicine and the side effects and costs that come with it.
Medicines generally are
used only for behavior problems when other treatments have failed. They may be needed if:
- A behavior is severely disruptive or harmful
to the person or to others.
- Efforts to manage or reduce disruptive
behavior by making changes in the person's environment or routines have
- The behavior is making the situation intolerable for the
- The person has trouble telling the difference between
what is and is not real (psychosis). Psychosis means the person has false
beliefs (delusions) or hears or sees things that aren't
What to think about
Close monitoring and regular
reevaluation of the person who has Alzheimer's disease are very important during
treatment with medicine. As the disease progresses and symptoms change, the
person's medicine needs often change. If you are a caregiver for someone with
Alzheimer's disease, be alert for adverse drug reactions or side effects that
further impair the person's ability to function.