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Pharmacological Agents for Clients With Alzheimer’s Disease

Although to date there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, drug therapies aim to improve memory and quality of life. There are two main drug classes: Cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine. Each drug class influences different brain chemicals, and may be prescribed in tandem for optimal results. Medications do not cure Alzheimer’s disease, yet they help with disease management and general wellbeing.

Understanding Drug Therapies Used to Manage Alzheimer’s Disease:

Cholinesterase Inhibitors: Prevents breakdown and increases the amount of neurotransmitter acetylcholine available to brain cells. Acetylcholine is a brain chemical needed for memory, thinking, and reasoning. Cholinesterase inhibitors cant reverse Alzheimer’s disease or stop nerve destruction. Cholinesterase inhibitors aim to prevent breakdown of acetylcholine and improve symptoms.

FDA Approved Cholinesterase Inhibitors:

Aricept (donepezil)- The only drug approved to treat mild, moderate, and severe Alzheimer’s disease. Aricept is often tolerated well with minimal side effects. As noted in WebMD, Aricept is the only drug approved by the FDA to manage all stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

Common side effects include: N/V/D, insomnia, loss of appetite, fatigue, muscle cramps, and weight loss. Gradually increasing doses and taking medications with food can help decrease intensity of side effects. 

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Exelon (rivastigmine)- Used for mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.

Exelon is taken twice daily with food, and it’s available in pill, oral solution (liquid), and transdermal patch.

Common side effects include: N/V/D, upset stomach, loss of appetite, weight loss, and weakness.

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Razadyne or Reminyl (galantamine)-improves nerve-cell function in the brain by preventing the breakdown of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Reminyl is used for mild to moderate dementia caused by Alzheimer’s disease, and is taken once or twice daily with meals.

Common side effects include: Feeling tired, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, gas, loss of appetite, weight loss, and headache.

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FDA Approved Memantine:

Namenda: Used to treat moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease. As defined by WebMD, “This medication works by blocking the action of a certain natural substance in the brain (glutamate) that is believed to be linked to symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.” Namenda is available in pill form or liquid form.

Common side effects include: Diarrhea, Dizziness, and headaches.

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Your physician may recommend other therapies in addition to commonly prescribed Alzheimer’s medications. It’s important to consult your doctor and nurse before using any Over-the-Counter (OTC) products.

WebMD documents the following (OTC) products as supplements with positive influence in mental health: 

Vitamin E, Coenzyme Q10, Coral Calcium, Gingko Biloba, and Huperzine A.

Your physician may recommend other therapies in addition to prescribed Alzheimer’s medications. It’s important to consult your doctor and nurse before using any Over-the-Counter (OTC) products natural remedies. Medication adherence is key for optimal wellbeing. Also, be sure to report abnormal signs or symptoms promptly to your physician to prevent any health complications.

* All information shared in this article should be discussed with your healthcare provider prior to incorporating any suggestions. This article is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide advice or direct client decisions.

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Yeneilyn is a Registered Nurse in the state of Florida since 2006. Her nursing practice began in the field of Cardiology at Mount Sinai Medical Hospital and expanded to care for clients in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). She was provided the opportunity as LPN Instructor, which changed the course of her nursing career. She states, “Teaching nursing students expanded my view on positive influences nurses contribute beyond beside care. Nurses are central leaders in health education, client advocacy, and disease prevention.” Currently, Yeneilyn writes health articles and prepares Continuing Education (C.E.) courses for healthcare professionals. She continues her studies in the field of Nursing Education and evidenced-based nursing practice. In her free time she enjoys sharing time with family and friends.

For questions or topics of interest contact Nurse Yenny at:    




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