A Treatment for Memory Loss

By M. Chris Wolf, PH.D.

Rivastigmine, also known by its trade name Exelon, is a medication used to treat memory loss and other thought-related symptoms associated withAlzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and Lewy Body Dementia. When people with these disorders go to see their doctors, it is highly beneficial for a family member, loved one, or friend to go along to the appointment to assist in conveying information about how well medication is working for the patient, the progression of the disease, and the possible ill effects of the medicine. In order for the family member to act effectively as an advocate, the person needs to be aware of some basic information about the medications the patient is taking.

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What Is Rivastigmine And How Does Is Work?

Exelon is blocks the enzyme cholinesterase from breaking down the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in the synapses of the neurons in the brain. Acetylcholine is thought to function in memory and other cognitive functions. The deterioration of executive brain functioning associated with Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and Lewy Body Dementia is thought to be the result of decreased levels of acetycholine. This medication is fast acting as it only takes an hour for the body to absorb it. A review of clinical studies show that Exelon is effective in treating mild to moderate memory loss and cognitive deficiencies.

How is Exelon Prescribed and Administered?

People prescribed this medication start at a very low dose and it the amount administered is gradually increased. Many times patients are advised to take the medication with food to slow the absorption of the medication. The medication is available in both liquid and capsules. Currently there are clinical trials testing the administration ofRivastigmine via a transdermal patch.

Who Should Not Take This Medication and What are the Side Effects?

People who have gastrointestinal disorders should not take this medication because clinical trials indicate the potential for significant side effects including loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, weight loss,bleeding and ulcers. Patients who smoke are advised not to take this medication. The initial clinical studies of Exelon do not suggest there are major interactions with commonly used medications. Caution is advised when this drug is used by people who have heart difficulties.

Patient who take this medication may also experience extrapyramidal symptoms, which can be either marked muscular rigidity or inability to control the movement of muscles. Evidence of these symptoms need to be assessed immediately by a medical professional

Other side effects include dizziness, ringing in the ears, and fatigue.


National Institute of Health. (2010). Daily Med: Rivastigmine. Retrieved 24 August, 2011, from National Library of Medicine: Daily Med: http://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/drugInfo.cfm?id=18703

The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, Inc. (2008, 9 1).Rivastigmine: Medline Plus. Retrieved 8 22, 2011, from Medline Plus: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/meds/a602009.html

Also see:

Visit Alzheimer's Medication


Medication Communication with your Doctor

Brain Fitness

For more information about this topic consider these resources:

The Handholder's Handbook: A Guide for Caregivers of People with Alzheimer's or Other Dementias by Rosette Teitel

Medcenter Talking Alarm Clock & Medication Reminder by medcenter

Return from Rivastigmine to Drugs


Memory Loss Facts

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