Overview of Alzheimer's Medications
Info on anti-dementia drugs, antipsychotics, antidepressants and other medications for treating symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease.
Four cholinesterase inhibitors, tacrine(brand name Cognex), donepezil (brand name Aricept), rivastigmine (brand name Exelon) and galantamine (brand name Reminyl) have been approved by the FDA for use in treating Alzheimer's disease. All produce some limited improvement in the cognitive symptoms associated with Alzheimer's disease, though they do not slow or halt the progression of the disease. The beneficial effects are typically modest and temporary.
This new generation of anticholinesterase drugs was originally developed to improve memory and the ability to carry out day-to-day living activities in people with Alzheimer's disease. Evidence suggests that these drugs also have beneficial effects on behavioral symptoms, particularly apathy (lack of drive), mood and confidence, delusions and hallucinations. Taking anti-dementia drugs may therefore reduce the need for other forms of medication. However, in higher doses these anti-dementia drugs may occasionally increase agitation and produce insomnia with nightmares.
Memantine (Namenda) is the most recent anti-dementia drug to be developed. It works in a different way than the anticholinesterase drugs and is the first drug suitable for those in the middle to later stages of Alzheimer's disease. It is thought to slow the rate of disease progression rather than to have immediate effects on behavioral symptoms.
Commonly prescribed drugs for Alzheimer's Disease
This list includes the names of many (but not all) of the different medications available. New drugs are appearing all the time and you may need to ask your doctor what type of medication is being prescribed. The generic name is given first, followed by some of the common proprietary (trade) names.
Chlorpromazine (Thorazine, Largactil)
Other mood stabilizers
- Memory Loss and the Brain newsletter, winter 2006.
- Alzheimer's Society - UK
Last Updated: 17 January 2019
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD