Namenda™ (memantine HCl), the first of a new class of drugs, was just approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of moderate to severe Alzheimer's disease. It was made available to physicians, patients, and pharmacies in January 2004. Namenda is the first NMDA receptor antagonist to be approved for Alzheimer's disease and is also the only therapy approved for the treatment of moderate to severe Alzheimer's disease.
The remaining four of these medications are called "cholinesterase inhibitors." Scientists do not yet fully understand how these medications work to treat AD, but current research suggests that each acts to prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine, a brain chemical believed to be important for memory and thinking.
These medications can help delay or prevent symptoms from becoming worse for a limited time and may help control some behavioral symptoms. Treating the symptoms of AD can provide patients with comfort, dignity, and independence for a longer period of time and can encourage and assist their caregivers as well.
None of these medications stops the disease itself. As AD progresses, the brain produces less and less acetylcholine, and the medications may eventually lose their effect.
No published study directly compares these drugs. Because all four work in a similar way, it is not expected that switching from one of these drugs to another will produce significantly different results. However, an AD patient may respond better to one drug than another.
Some additional differences among these medications are summarized in the following listings under "drug information links". The medications (listed from most recent to last as approved by the FDA) are:
(Note: Cognex is still available but is not actively marketed by the manufacturer.)
Benefits reported for these medications tend to occur at higher doses. However, the higher the dose, the more likely are side effects. Doctors usually start patients at low doses, and gradually increase the dosage based on how well a patient tolerates the drug. Patients may be drug-sensitive in other ways, and they should be monitored for unusual symptoms when a drug is started. Report any unusual symptoms to the prescribing doctor right away.
It is important to follow the doctor’s instructions when taking any medication, including vitamins and herbal supplements. Also, let the doctor know before adding or changing any medications.
Drug Information Links
New Research on Combination of Namenda and Aricept
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Drug Information Links