Several prescription medications are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat symptoms of dementia caused by AD. These drugs can provide short-term relief from cognitive dementia symptoms. Some can also help slow the progression of AD-related dementia.
While these drugs are approved to treat symptoms of AD, they’re not approved to treat symptoms of other types of dementia. However, researchers are exploring off-label uses of these medications for people with non-AD dementias.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, some AD medications may benefit people with Parkinson’s disease dementia and vascular dementia.
Some of the most commonly prescribed medications used to treat symptoms of AD are cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine.
Cholinesterase inhibitors work by increasing acetylcholine, a chemical in your brain that aids in memory and judgment. Increasing the amount of acetylcholine in your brain may delay dementia-related symptoms. It may also prevent them from worsening.
The more common side effects of cholinesterase inhibitors include:
Some commonly prescribed cholinesterase inhibitors are:
Donepezil (Aricept) is approved to delay or slow the symptoms of mild, moderate, and severe AD. It may be used off-label to help reduce behavioral symptoms in some people with thought problems following a stroke, LBD, and vascular dementia.
It’s available as a tablet.
Galantamine (Razadyne) is approved to prevent or slow the symptoms of mild to moderate AD. It may be used off-label to help provide the same benefit for people with LBD or vascular dementia.
It’s available as a tablet, an extended-release capsule, and an oral solution.
Rivastigmine (Exelon) is approved to prevent or slow the symptoms of mild to moderate AD or mild to moderate Parkinson’s dementia.
It’s available as a capsule and as an extended-release skin patch.
Memantine (Namenda) is mainly used to delay increasing cognitive and behavioral symptoms caused by moderate to severe AD. This effect may allow people with AD to function more normally for a longer time.
Memantine may be used off-label to provide the same benefit for people with vascular dementia.
Memantine isn’t a cholinesterase inhibitor, but it also acts on chemicals in the brain.
In fact, memantine is often prescribed in combination with a cholinesterase inhibitor. An example of this combination is Namzaric. The medication combines extended-release memantine with donepezil.
Memantine is available as a tablet, an extended-release capsule, and an oral solution.
Its more common side effects include:
- high blood pressure
- increased sensitivity to contract the flu