Drug treatments for Alzheimer's disease

There's no drug to cure dementia yet, but it's often possible to relieve some symptoms. Learn more about the main drug treatments for Alzheimer's disease.

There are no drug treatments that can cure Alzheimer's disease or any other common type of dementia.

However, medicines have been developed for Alzheimer's disease that can temporarily alleviate symptoms, or slow down their progression, in some people.

Drug treatment for Alzheimer's disease is important, but the benefits are small, and drugs should only be one part of a person's overall care.

Non-drug treatments, activities and support are just as important in helping someone to live well with Alzheimer's disease.

Managing symptoms with drugs

Drugs can sometimes help with behavioral and psychological symptoms.

Learn more

What are the main drugs used to treat Alzheimer's disease?

Many drugs have at least two names. The generic name identifies the substance, and the brand name varies depending on the company that manufactures it. For example, a familiar painkiller has the generic name paracetamol and is manufactured under brand names such as Panadol and Calpol, among others.

Occasionally, a drug with a very well-known generic name (such as paracetamol) will also be manufactured and sold using just this name.

There are two types of medication used to treat Alzheimer's disease, which work in different ways.

Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors (or 'cholinesterase' inhibitors)

The generic names for the cholinesterase inhibitors are donepezil, rivastigmine and galantamine:

  • Donepezil was originally patented as the brand name Aricept, but is more widely available now as just generic donepezil.
  • Rivastigmine was patented as Exelon and is now also available as other brands, as well as generic rivastigmine.
  • Galantamine was patented as Reminyl and is now also available as generic galantamine and the brands Reminyl XL, Acumor XL, Galsya XL and Gatalin XL.

 NMDA receptor antagonists

The NMDA receptor antagonist is memantine. It was originally patented as Ebixa and is now also available as generic memantine.

Other UK brand names for memantine include Maruxa and Nemdatine.

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