The Best Medicines for Alzheimer's Disease

Learn about the different types of medications used to treat Alzheimer's disease, their effectiveness in slowing the progression of the disease, and the potential side effects. Be informed and discuss any new symptoms or behaviors with your doctor.

The Best Medicines for Alzheimer's Disease
Alzheimer Dementia Medications

Did you know that there are medications specifically designed to help manage the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease? As the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, finding effective treatments for Alzheimer’s is more crucial than ever. In this blog post, we’ll explore the best medicines for Alzheimer’s, compare various treatments, and discuss the future of medicines for Alzheimer’s treatments. Buckle up for an informative journey!

Key Takeaways

  • Alzheimer’s medications can help treat the different stages of Alzheimer’s, but come with side effects.
  • Non-drug strategies and atypical antipsychotic medications are important for managing behavioral symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Research insurance coverage options to understand out of pocket expenses related to medication costs.

Overview of Alzheimer's Medications

person holding white and green plastic container
A person with Alzheimer's disease taking pills

Alzheimer’s disease can be a challenging journey, but alzheimer’s disease medications play a vital role in the overall treatment plan for those affected by this condition, including early Alzheimer’s disease, mild to moderate Alzheimer’s, and severe Alzheimer’s disease. Cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine are the two approved medications for treating moderate Alzheimer’s disease. While some people with mild cognitive impairment may not experience significant improvement, Alzheimer’s medications can potentially stabilize their condition for a while, even for those with moderate to severe alzheimer’s.

However, understanding the potential side effects of Alzheimer’s medications can be beneficial. Some common side effects include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Allergic reactions
  • Loss of appetite
  • Headaches

It is important to be aware of these side effects when considering Alzheimer’s medications. We will further explore these medications, their specific benefits, and side effects.

Cholinesterase Inhibitors

Cholinesterase inhibitors are substances that help increase acetylcholine levels, improving learning and memory in people with Alzheimer’s. Unfortunately, these medications, including the use of a cholinesterase inhibitor, can’t reverse Alzheimer’s disease or stop the destruction of nerve cells. As the disease progresses, cholinesterase inhibitors become less effective since brain cells produce less acetylcholine.

Cholinesterase inhibitors often result in side effects which may include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. These are some of the most commonly reported adverse reactions. People with certain types of cardiac arrhythmias are advised against taking cholinesterase inhibitors.


Memantine is another approved medication for Alzheimer’s treatment, working differently from cholinesterase inhibitors by regulating glutamate levels to protect brain cells. It is usually prescribed for moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease, helping protect brain cells by regulating glutamate levels.

Dizziness, headache, confusion and agitation can be common side effects of memantine. Seeking medical advice is recommended if any of these symptoms occur. Namzaric, a combination of memantine and donepezil, is also used to treat behavioral and psychological symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, and diarrhea.

FDA-Approved Immunotherapies

green and white light bulb
Immunotherapies for Alzheimer's Dementi

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also approved two immunotherapies for Alzheimer’s: aducanumab and lecanemab. These medications approved target amyloid plaques and may slow Alzheimer’s progression but have side effects like serious allergic reactions, amyloid-related imaging abnormalities (ARIA), and infusion-related reactions.

We will delve into these innovative immunotherapies and evaluate their benefits in comparison to potential side effects through clinical trials.


Aducanumab is an intravenous infusion therapy that has been met with limited use due to unclear benefits and potential side effects. It works by reducing brain beta-amyloid, a protein believed to be an important component of the Alzheimer disease process.

However, some potential side effects of aducanumab include having to undergo repeated brain MRIs to detect changes, as well as unclear benefits on daily functioning, thinking, or memory.


Lecanemab is another FDA-approved immunotherapy that targets the protein beta-amyloid, helping to reduce amyloid plaques in the brain and slow cognitive decline in people with early Alzheimer’s disease. Clinical studies have shown that lecanemab has a positive effect on cognitive decline and amyloid levels over 18 months.

However, lecanemab treatment requires careful monitoring, and the FDA suggests getting a brain MRI prior to beginning treatment and monitoring brain MRIs during treatment for signs of brain swelling or bleeding. Infusion-related reactions and rare cases of brain swelling can also occur as side effects.

Managing Behavioral Symptoms

There are non drug behavioral approaches for challengin behaviors of Alzheimer's dementia

Managing the behavioural and psychological symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease involves using non-drug strategies and, if necessary, atypical antipsychotic medications. It’s essential to explore non-drug strategies and alternative treatments first before resorting to medications for managing symptoms like agitation and insomnia.

We will further explore these non-drug strategies along with atypical antipsychotic medications.

Non-Drug Strategies

Non-drug strategies are vital for managing behavioral symptoms, as medications should only be used after other non-drug strategies have been attempted. These approaches involve:

  • Creating a caring environment
  • Developing and maintaining care skills
  • Utilizing sensory practices
  • Engaging in cognitive training
  • Trying out music therapy
  • Exploring behavioral therapy
  • Trying validation therapy
  • Providing person-centered care

Implementing these non-drug strategies enables effective management of agitation and insomnia in Alzheimer’s patients, eliminating the need for medications.

Atypical Antipsychotic Medications

In cases where non-drug strategies are insufficient to manage severe behavioral symptoms, atypical antipsychotic medications like brexpiprazole may be prescribed. These medications target the serotonin and dopamine pathways in the brain, affecting our moods.

The FDA mandates that a safety warning must be affixed to all atypical antipsychotics. It illustrates the risk of death in older people with dementia-related psychosis may be increased. Consulting a healthcare professional before initiating treatment with atypical antipsychotic medications is strongly recommended.

Medication Safety and Monitoring

orange and white medication pill on persons hand
Medication safety and Alzheimer's dement

In Alzheimer’s treatment, medication safety and monitoring hold substantial importance. Thus, informing your physician and pharmacist about all current medications, dietary supplements, or other products you’re using is imperative before starting any new Alzheimer’s medication.

Always be vigilant for any changes in your condition or side effects you may experience, and report them to your doctor promptly. Your doctor will guide you on how to manage side effects and ensure the safe use of Alzheimer’s medications.

Treatment Duration and Discontinuation

The duration and discontinuation of Alzheimer’s medications depend on individual benefits, side effects, and disease progression. It’s usually advised to continue taking the medication until the end stages if you’re seeing positive results and can tolerate any side effects.

However, always consult with your doctor before stopping any Alzheimer’s medication, and let them know if your condition changes after stopping. Working with a healthcare team is highly beneficial. They are able to provide valuable input and recommendations for strategies to manage symptoms and help you maintain your independence.

Medications for Other Types of Dementia

Cholinesterase inhibitors may also be effective for other types of dementia, such as dementia with Lewy bodies or Parkinson’s disease dementia. Cholinesterase inhibitors appear to offer greater therapeutic benefit in certain clinical settings than for Alzheimer’s disease. Research suggests that these conditions may receive greater benefits as a result..

Memantine, along with cholinesterase inhibitors like donepezil and rivastigmine, can also be used to treat other types of dementia. Consulting a healthcare professional to determine the optimal treatment course for each specific type of dementia is recommended.

The Future of Alzheimer's Treatments

Asimo robot doing handsign
The future of Alzheimer's medications is bright

The future of Alzheimer’s treatments looks bright! We’re seeing innovative approaches like immunotherapy, drug therapies, cognitive training, diet, and physical activity being explored. New drugs like Lecanemab have been approved for the treatment of early Alzheimer’s disease, and researchers are exploring drug combinations, vaccines, gene therapy, and devices that target multiple areas.

Recent trial results have been encouraging, so there’s hope for better treatments and possibly even a cure for Alzheimer’s disease in the future. Keep an eye on the progress of these cutting-edge treatments as we move closer to conquering Alzheimer’s.

Financial Considerations and Insurance Coverage

Financial considerations and insurance coverage for Alzheimer’s medications vary by region and may require out-of-pocket expenses or private insurance. Researching the types of insurance coverage available in your area and comprehending the terms and conditions of each policy is recommended.

Reach out to your insurance provider to see which medications are covered and what out-of-pocket expenses you may have to pay. Proper planning and understanding of insurance coverage can help alleviate some of the financial burdens associated with Alzheimer’s medications.


In summary, Alzheimer’s medications, such as cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine, can help manage symptoms and slow cognitive decline. FDA-approved immunotherapies, like aducanumab and lecanemab, target amyloid plaques and may slow Alzheimer’s progression but come with potential side effects. Managing behavioral symptoms involves non-drug strategies and, if necessary, atypical antipsychotic medications. Medication safety and monitoring are crucial, and treatment duration and discontinuation depend on individual benefits, side effects, and disease progression. The future of Alzheimer’s treatments includes innovative approaches like immunotherapy, drug therapies, cognitive training, diet, and physical activity. Always consult with a healthcare professional and consider financial aspects and insurance coverage when seeking Alzheimer’s treatment.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best medication for Alzheimer's?

Donepezil (Aricept®) is the best medication for Alzheimer's, as it is the only treatment approved by the FDA for all stages of the disease - mild, moderate, and severe. Cholinesterase inhibitors like Rivastigmine (Exelon®) are also approved for mild-to-moderate Alzheimer's, while memantine (an NMDA antagonist) is prescribed to slow the neurotoxicity of neurodegenerative diseases.

What is the new drug to slow down Alzheimer's?

Leqembi is the new drug approved by the FDA to slow down the progression of Alzheimer's disease. It works by targeting amyloid plaques in the brain and may reduce its progression by up to 27% over 18 months. This is a major breakthrough in the fight against Alzheimer's, as it offers a potential treatment option for those suffering from the disease. It is also a promising sign for future treatments, as it shows that

What are cholinesterase inhibitors, and how do they work?

Cholinesterase inhibitors are drugs that increase levels of acetylcholine in the brain, improving memory and cognitive function in people with Alzheimer's disease.

Are there any side effects of Alzheimer's medications?

Yes, there are side effects associated with Alzheimer's medications, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, allergic reactions, loss of appetite, and headaches.

What's the difference between aducanumab and lecanemab?

Aducanumab is an intravenous infusion therapy, while lecanemab is approved for mild Alzheimer's and mild cognitive impairment, making them two distinct FDA-approved immunotherapies for Alzheimer's.

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