Kalamazoo Nerve Center, PLLC

Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's Disease Medications

 People with AD may take medications to treat:

  • The disease itself
  • Mood or other behavior changes
  • Other medical conditions they may have

Caregivers need to know about each medicine that a person with AD takes.

Ask the doctor or pharmacist the questions below and write down the answers:

  • Why is this medicine being used?
  • What positive effects should I look for, and when?
  • How long will the person need to take it?
  • How much should he or she take each day?
  • When does the person need to take the medicine?
  • What are the side effects?
  • What can I do about these side effects?
  • Can the medicine be crushed and mixed into foods such as applesauce?
  • Can I get the medicine in a liquid form?
  • Can this medicine cause problems if taken with other medicines?
  • Is this medicine available as a generic? 

Reminders to take medicine

People with AD often need help taking their medicine. If the person still lives alone, you may need to call and remind him or her. It’s also helpful to buy a pillbox and put pills for each day in the box. That way all the pills for the day are in one place. You can get pillboxes at the drugstore. As the disease gets worse, you will need to keep track of the person's medicines. You also will need to make sure they take the medicine or you will need to give them the medicine. Ask the doctor or pharmacist about when to give the medications. 

Medicines to treat AD

Both caregivers and doctors need to remember that no two people with AD are alike. This means that medications may work differently in different people.

Many factors may play a role in the disease, such as:

  • Genes
  • Lifestyle
  • Earlier treatments
  • Other illnesses or problems
  • The person’s surroundings
  • Stage of AD

Work closely with the doctor to learn which medicines to use for AD, how much to use, and when to use them. Check with the doctor to see if Medicare or private insurance will cover the cost of the medicines. Also, find out if you can buy the non-brand, also called generic, type of medicines. They often cost less than brand-name medicines.

There are five medicines available to treat AD. Other promising new medicines are being tested.

It's important to understand that none of these medicines can cure or stop the disease. What they can do, for some people, is help slow down certain problems, such as memory loss. Slowing down memory loss can allow many people with AD to be more comfortable and independent for a longer time.

Medicines for mild to moderate AD

Medicines to treat mild to moderate AD all work in a similar way and may help reduce some symptoms.

The names of these three medicines are:

  • Aricept® (AIR-uh-sept), brand name; donepezil (doe-NEP-uh-zil), generic name
  • Exelon® (EKS-uh-lawn), brand name; rivastigmine (riv-uh-STIG-meen), generic name
  • Razadyne® (RAZZ-uh-dine), brand name; galantamine (guh-LAN-tuh-meen), generic name

Medicines for moderate to severe AD

Aricept® is also approved to treat moderate to severe AD. Another medication, Namenda®, may decrease symptoms, which could allow some people to do more things for themselves, such as using the toilet. The generic name of this drug is memantine (MEH-man-teen).

Sometimes doctors use more than one medicine to treat moderate to severe AD. For example, they might use Aricept® and Namenda®, which work in different ways. Another medication, Namzaric®(nam-ZAR-ic), combines donepezil and memantine in a single pill.

Medicines that people with AD should not take

Anticholinergic drugs are used to treat many medical problems such as sleeping problems, stomach cramps, incontinence, asthma, motion sickness, and muscle spasms. Side effects, such as confusion, can be serious for a person with AD. These drugs should NOT be given to a person with AD. You might talk with the person's doctor about other options.

Examples of these drugs include:

  • Atrovent® (AT-row-vent), brand name; ipratropium (EYE-pra-troe-pee-um), generic name
  • Dramamine® (DRA-me-meen), brand name; dimenhydrinate (dye-men-HYE-dri-nate), generic name
  • Diphenhydramine (dye-fen-HYE-dra-meen), generic name—includes brand names such as Benadryl® (BEN-a-dril) and Nytol® (NYE-tal)

Reference: National Institute on Aging

Last updated May 4, 2017