Alzheimer Dementia Medications can be confusing to the lay person.
There presently is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. The medications presently used to treat Alzheimer’s have been developed to slow the progression of the symptoms of this disease. For some individuals that take these medications and their family care givers, the benefits may be so minimal that they go unnoticed.
At the present time there are only two drug classifications that have been approved in the US by the Food and Drug Administration to treat Alzheimer’s.
Cholinesterase inhibitors are generally prescribed to treat mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s. Donepezil is the one medication from this classification that is also approved for treatment of severe dementia.
Research scientists do not understand why cholinesterase inhibitors work on the brain to treat Alzheimer’s disease. Acetylcholine is a chemical in the brain that scientists believe is important for an individual’s memory and thinking processes. In Alzheimer’s disease, as the disease advances the brain actually produces decreasing amounts of cholinesterase.
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Studies have shown that these medications, cholinesterase inhibitors, actually prevent the breakdown of this chemical in the brain. So over time, these medications lose their effectiveness.
N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonists are another classification of drug approved that are generally prescribed to treat moderate-to-severe stages of Alzheimer’s. Glutamate is a brain chemical that is responsible for exciting the nerves. It is believed that there is an overproduction of this chemical in the later stages of Alzheimer’s. This chemical when produced in excessive amounts may lead to brain cell death.
This drug classification is to slow the progression and treat some of the symptoms of the disease. The goals of this classification of drug is to allow individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s the ability to maintain a few functions of daily life a little longer than they would without the medication.
At the present time, all medications that are approved for Alzheimer’s are expensive. With all medications, they do have side effects. These medications do not deliver dramatic results that family members and patients may be expecting. While these medications may slow the progression they do not stop the destruction of disease process from advancing.
It is important to be aware that this is a condition that the health care professionals will address new symptoms that develop and treat accordingly. It is also important that you as a health care consumer be prepared to discuss any new symptoms or behaviors, making sure to take the most up to date list of all medications, herbal and nutritional supplements that the person with Alzheimer’s takes at the time. Of course, a list of medication and food allergies, as well as any medications that may have had an adverse effect on the person with Alzheimer’s is important information.
An individual with Alzheimer’s may develop a range of symptoms from depression, anxiety, apathy to delusions, psychosis, aggressive behaviors and sleep disturbances. Each individual is different and responds to medications differently. It is important to keep records of any medications and any reactions to that medication for future reference. This is especially important because as individual ages, some may have an opposite response than was anticipated from the medication. This is called a paradoxyl response.
An example may be a medication that is to calm a person that is agitated , in fact, the medication further excites them and increase the agitation.
There are a number of investigational drugs being tested in the areas of Alzheimer’s prevention and treatment. At the present time, many research areas are focused on stopping or decreasing the beta amyloid plaque buildup that occurs in the Alzheimer’s disease process.