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What You Need to Know About Drugs Used for Alzheimer's Disease

Medication for Moderate-to-Severe Alzheimer's

The fifth approved Alzheimer's disease medication, known as memantine (Namenda®, Namenda XR®), is an N-methyl D-aspartate (NMDA) antagonist. It is prescribed for the treatment of moderate-to-severe Alzheimer's disease. Studies have shown that the main effect of Namenda is to delay progression of some of the more severe symptoms of this condition.
This medication for Alzheimer's disease may allow people to maintain certain daily functions a little longer. For example, Namenda may help a person in the later stages of the disease to maintain his or her ability to go to the bathroom independently for several more months, a benefit for both patients and caregivers.
Namenda is believed to work by regulating glutamate, another important brain chemical that, when produced in excessive amounts, may lead to brain cell death. Because NMDA antagonists work differently from cholinesterase inhibitors, the two types of drugs can be prescribed in combination.
As mentioned previously, both Aricept and Exelon Patches are approved for severe Alzheimer's as well as mild-to-moderate Alzheimer's. 

Dosing and Side Effects of Alzheimer's Disease Medication

Healthcare providers usually start people at low drug doses and gradually increase the amount based on how well the medication is tolerated. There is some evidence that certain people may benefit from higher doses of the cholinesterase inhibitor medications. However, side effects are more likely to occur if the dose is higher.
The recommended effective Namenda dosage is 20 mg/day after the person has successfully tolerated lower doses.
People may be drug-sensitive in other ways, and they should be monitored when a medication is started. Patients or their caregivers should:
  • Report any unusual symptoms to the prescribing doctor right away
  • Let the doctor know before adding or changing any medications
  • Follow the doctor's instructions when taking any medication, including vitamins and herbal supplements.
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