The simplest description of Alzheimer’s disease I’ve heard was from a neurologist at Rhode Island Hospital. As brain cells die, there is significant shrinkage inside the skull; an MRI shows this dramatic change. The loss of brain cells causes a reduction in an individual’s mental dictionary. At first, we forget certain words. Then, we lose operative knowledge. Finally, the disease progresses into a total lack of verbalization and function.
This heart-wrenching disease takes a toll not only on the affected but also their loved ones and caregivers; there seems to be little anyone can do to improve functional memory. Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, but several medications may help with limiting memory loss, confusion, and agitation—especially in the early stages of the disease.
Currently, there are two classes of drugs available for the treatment of Alzheimer’s. The first is cholinesterase inhibitors: Aricept, Exelon, Razadyne, and Namenda, a memantine drug. The cholinesterase inhibitors are indicated for the early stages of Alzheimer’s and may delay its progression. However, this is only seen in half of the patients who take these medications. Aricept has an additional indication for use in later, more severe stages of Alzheimer’s.
Namenda and Namenda XR are approved for moderate to severe Alzheimer’s and are often used in combination with Donazepril with improvement seen in moderate to severe disease. Recently, a fixed combination of these two drugs (Namzaric™) was approved by the FDA. Side-effects are typically tolerable but include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, loss of appetite, muscle cramps, tremor, and weight loss.
These drugs have proven successful in slowing down the disease. Unfortunately, the cost of these medications can be exorbitant—some over $400 per month. While future medical breakthroughs are pending, research is being conducted on prevention with early diagnoses and other novel drug treatments.SUBSCRIBE