The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is concerned about early onset dementia. It has approved a number of alzheimers medications and memory drugs for the treatment of memory problems.
These medications have been approved for the treatment of Dementia and Alzheimer's Disease. They are particularly helpful for early onset dementia.
All medications have the potential of side effects. It is important to consult a physician knowledgeable about the use of these medications. As always, it is important to communicate with your prescriber the effects of any medication including those used to treat memory loss.
Tragically, these approved medications do not prevent or stop the disease. At this juncture there is no known treatment that will prevent or stop the progression of Dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease.
These medications have hope in that they can sometimes slow the devastating effects of early onset dementia.
They can be helpful for memory loss and confusion that accompanies the progression of the disease. This is helpful, not only for the victim of these memory disorders but also family and caregivers.
Some physicians have been prescribing these medications "off label" for people with other forms of memory loss other than Dementia and Alzheimer's Disease. This means that the medication has not been approved by the FDA for other types of memory loss but the physician is prescribing it in the hopes that it helps reduce symptoms.
The FDA has approved certain medications for mild to moderate Alzheimer's. These are called cholinesterase inhibitors. You may have seen these medications advertized on television or in magazines. One of the first to come on the market wasAricept® (donepezil).
I have personally seen patient's improve on this medication. Other memory loss medications approved for mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease include Razadyne® (galantamine),Exelon® (rivastigmine), and Cognex® (tacrine). The last medication is more rarely prescribed today due to some safety concerns.
Neuroscientists have a number of theories as to why these medications work for dementia and early onset dementia. They primarily believe that these medications work by preventing the destruction or breakdown of a neurotransmitter(brain chemical). This one is known asacetylcholine.
We all have acetylcoline in our brains. It is available in the peripheral nervous system (outside our brain and spinal cord) and of course in the central nervous system (inside our brain an spinal cord).
Acetylcholine is one of many neurotransmitters in the autonomic nervous system (ANS) (that part of our nervous system involved in anxiety). Acetylcholine is a major chemical at the nerve cells between some nerves that facilitates nerve transmission.
Unfortunately, as the memory loss diseases progress, the brain produces less and less of the acetylcholine and the medication stops having an effect.
There are also memory drugs approved for moderate or severe memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s' disease and dementia.Namenda® (memantine)can delay progression of some of the symptoms of moderate to severe memory loss. It may allow people a few more months of independence.
Neuroscientists believe that Namenda® works by regulating a chemical that in larger amounts leads to brain cell death. Some physicians prescribe the mediation with one of the above. I have personally seen it provide some benefit for patients in combination with Aricept.
This is an important area of memory drug research. There are currently clinical trials looking at these medications and others. We will continue to re-visit this area over time to see what research can tell us about the benefits of these memory loss drugs.
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