Current Treatments for Alzheimer's Disease

There are four approved drugs for Alzheimer's disease (AD). They treat cognitive symptoms including memory loss, confusion, and problems with thinking and reasoning in AD. These medications can temporarily improve or delay the worsening of AD symptoms for an average of 6-12 months; however, they do not treat the underlying disease.

Donepezil is the only approved agent for treating all stages of AD from mild, to moderate to severe. The recent approval of Donepezil 23 mg (2010) provided an alternative choice to patients with moderate to severe AD symptoms.

Rivastigmine and Galantamine are approved to treat mild to moderate AD. A patch form of Rivastigmine was shown to be as effective as the original tablet and was approved by the FDA in 2009. The patch formulation has fewer side effects than the pill form and offers added value to those patients who have difficulty swallowing or simply prefer a patch over tablets.

Memantine is approved for treatment of moderate to severe AD. It can be used alone or in combination with the above medications.

Management strategies for AD that are most likely to be successful are those that integrate medication with lifestyle interventions. Studies show these drugs not only provide a modest improvement in cognitive abilities such as memory and attention, but also reduce functional decline, control behavioral problems, delay residential care placement and reduce caregiver burden.

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