A number of drugs that maintain the cholinergic system have been developed or are now being tested to treat the cognitive decline experienced by Alzheimer’s patients. For example, the current drug of choice for AD, donepezil, acts by slowing down the metabolic breakdown of acetylcholine. These agents do not, however, alter the underlying course of the disease. Another clinical trial to investigate potential cholinergic treatments for AD cognitive decline is being supported by the Belgian pharmaceutical company, Janssen Pharmaceutica. In this study, to be conducted in the United States, researchers will investigate the effect on cognitive performance of galantamine, an experimental medication that is thought to increase the amount of acetylcholine available in the brain. Galantamine does this both by inhibiting the enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine and by stimulating certain receptors in the brain to release more acetylcholine.
National Institutes of Health
National Institute on Aging
1999 PROGRESS REPORT ON ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE