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Alzheimer Treatment & Medication

There is no vaccine or treatment to effectively prevent or cure Alzheimer’s disease. However, there are a number of interventions employed when Alzheimer’s disease occurs.


There are multiple drugs used for Alzheimer’s disease. Most of these drugs are what are called cholinesterase inhibitors. These drugs, like donepezil, galantamine, and rivastigmine prevent the breakdown choline, a chemical that serves critical functions in the brain. The drugs do sometimes cause adverse side effects, such as nausea, diarrhea, and disturbances in sleep patterns. Memantine is another drug used for Alzheimer’s disease that affects glutamate, a critical neurotransmitter involved in memory. The effect of these drugs on Alzheimer’s patients varies. However, the main impact of these drugs is to reduce symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s disease. They do not treat the underlying condition or prevent the progression of the disease.

One of the main differences in these drugs is when they are used in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Whereas donepezil and rivastigmine, known as Aricept and Exelon respectively, are used during all stages of Alzheimer’s disease, galantamine, or Razadyne is used only during mild to moderate phases of the disease. Memantine, or Namenda, is used for moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease. In 2014, Namzaric, which is a combination of donepezil and memantine was approved by the FDA as a way to treat moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease.

Diet and Exercise

The FDA has not approved any foods as treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, but there are supplements that are marketed to suggest that they can intervene in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. However, because people with Alzheimer’s disease often lose their interest in food and forget to eat, caregivers are generally advised to implement a plan to ensure that Alzheimer’s patients are getting proper nutrition. Similarly, because exercise is important for health, and because those with Alzheimer’s disease are likely to lose motivation or forget to exercise, caregivers are encouraged to promote exercise in Alzheimer’s disease patients.


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Sonkusare, S. K., Kaul, C. L., & Ramarao, P. (2005). Dementia of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders–memantine, a new hope. Pharmacol Res, 51(1), 1-17. doi: 10.1016/j.phrs.2004.05.005

Wilkinson, D., Wirth, Y., & Goebel, C. (2014). Memantine in patients with moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease: meta-analyses using realistic definitions of response. Dement Geriatr Cogn Disord, 37(1-2), 71-85. doi: 10.1159/000353801

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