Medical treatment involves attempting to forestall the loss of brain function by increasing the amount of brain neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are brain chemicals that are responsible for transmitting information between nerves and are, therefore, responsible for much of the functioning of the brain. Certain of these neurotransmitters are lower in people with Alzheimer’s disease.
Drugs that increase acetylcholine
. The most important of these neurotransmitters is acetylcholine. The drugs that can increase this neurotransmitter are called cholinesterase inhibitors and include drugs such as donepezil (Aricept®), galantamine (Reminy®), rivastigmine (Exelon®) and tacrine (Cognex®). These drugs don’t work in all patients, but when they do, they tend to slow the progression of the disease and improve memory and cognitive function.
. A new drug, memantine (Axura®, Akatinol®, Namenda®, Ebixa®), works through binding to so-called NMDA receptors in the brain. This is a different approach than using cholinesterase inhibitors and can be used at the same time.
Other medical treatments
include using antiinflammatories
such as over-the-counter or prescription non-steroidal antiinflammatories (NSAIDS), including acetaminophen, ibuprofen and others. Occasionally, estrogen therapy
is used in women.