Alzheimer’s medications offer hope and help in managing symptoms

In the United States alone, there were an estimated 5.7 million people living with Alzheimer’s disease in 2018, according to a report published by the Alzheimer’s Association. Age is the major risk factor for developing this disease. As America heads toward a boom in the population of older adults, the number of diagnoses for Alzheimer’s disease is expected to increase significantly. “By 2025, the number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s dementia is projected to reach 7.1 million — almost a 29 percent increase from the 5.5 million age 65 and older affected in 2018,” according to the Alzheimer’s Association report. Presently, there is no cure for the disease, but there is hope in helping people maintain mental function longer and manage symptoms. September is World Alzheimer’s Month and this is a good time to look at what’s available in approved treatment of the disease.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved two types of medications — cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine to treat the cognitive symptoms (memory loss, confusion and thinking and reasoning difficulties) of Alzheimer's disease. There are five medications currently on the market. Cholinesterase inhibitors are prescribed for mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. These drugs may help reduce some symptoms and help control some behavioral symptoms. The medications are Razadyne® (galantamine), Exelon® (rivastigmine) and Aricept® (donepezil). Research indicates these types of drugs prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine, a brain chemical believed to be important for memory and thinking. However, as Alzheimer’s progresses, the brain produces less and less acetylcholine and cholinesterase inhibitors may eventually lose their effect.

A medication known as Namenda® (memantine), an N-methyl D-aspartate (NMDA) antagonist, is prescribed to treat moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease. This drug helps improve memory, attention and ability to maintain certain daily functions a little longer than they would without the medication. Namenda® is believed to work by regulating glutamate, an important brain chemical involved in processing information. When produced in excessive amounts, glutamate may lead to brain cell death. Namenda® helps protect cells against excess glutamate by blocking its receptors. Because NMDA antagonists work differently from cholinesterase inhibitors, the two types of drugs can be prescribed in combination. Namzaric®, is a combination of Namenda® and Aricept® and is also approved for treatment of moderate to severe Alzheimer’s.

Research to better understand Alzheimer’s disease and develop effective treatment is ongoing around the world. There has been much promise, but the future is still uncertain about definitive breakthroughs on the horizon. As the number of people with Alzheimer’s rises, long-term care professionals will need the help of current medication and non-drug therapies to aid their residents in maintaining their dignity and quality of life. Combined with their care, these options can provide the immediate hope for people with Alzheimer’s that research cannot — for now.

Source: National Institute on Aging

Turenne PharMedCo Pharmacy Services is a quality-driven provider of pharmacy solutions proudly serving residential healthcare facilities in the Southeast. We employ a highly-experienced clinical staff who specialize in geriatric pharmacy. If you have questions about how our solutions can help your residents, contact us at 866-710-7626.

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