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‚Äôs disease or any other common type of dementia.

However, there are medicines for Alzheimer’s disease that can ease symptoms for a while, or slow down their progression, in some people. These drugs do not slow down or stop the progression of the underlying disease in the brain.

Medication can be an important part of a person‚Äôs treatment for Alzheimer‚Äôs disease. However, drugs can only help with some symptoms and should only be one part of a person‚Äôs care. Information and advice, activities, support and treatments that don‚Äôt involve drugs are just as important in helping someone to live well with Alzheimer‚Äôs disease. A person with Alzheimer‚Äôs disease can look at The dementia guide: Living well after diagnosis, or Alzheimer‚Äôs disease: Understanding your diagnosis for more information.

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:

  • a name for the main substance in the medicine (such as paracetamol)
  • a brand name (such as Panadol or Calpol).

Drugs are sometimes made with only the name of the substance (such as paracetamol) on the packaging. There are four drugs for Alzheimer’s disease:

Substance name Examples of brand names (UK):

Donepezil

Aricept

Rivastigmine

Exelon

Galantamine

Reminyl, Acumor XL*, Galsya XL*, Gatalin XL*

Memantine

Ebixa, Nemdatine, Alzhok

*XL refers to a drug that is in a slow-release form. See Taking the drugs.

Donepezil, rivastigmine and galantamine work in a similar way and are all known as ‚Äėacetylcholinesterase inhibitors‚Äô. (This is often shortened to ‚Äėcholinesterase inhibitors‚Äô.)

Memantine works differently to the other drugs, and is known as an ‚ÄėNMDA receptor antagonist‚Äô.

The next page tells you more about how these drugs work.

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