Memantine for later stages

Memantine (Namenda) is approved by the FDA for treatment of moderate to severe Alzheimer's disease. It works by regulating the activity of glutamate, a messenger chemical widely involved in brain functions — including learning and memory. It's taken as a pill or syrup. Common side effects include dizziness, headache, confusion and agitation.

Since memantine's original approval for moderate to severe Alzheimer's, researchers have conducted additional studies to determine whether memantine might also help in earlier stages. But none of this additional work shows that memantine has any benefit for mild Alzheimer's disease.

When to discontinue Alzheimer's drugs

Because Alzheimer's is a progressive disease, your symptoms and care plan will change over time. If you're taking an Alzheimer's drug, ongoing review of your care plan will include working with your doctor to decide how long you should continue your medication.

It may be difficult to tell if Alzheimer's drugs are helping, because their effect is usually modest. On the other hand, it's hard to know how severe your symptoms might be without your medication.

If you stop taking an Alzheimer's drug and experience a sharp decline in your condition, contact your doctor. He or she may advise restarting the medication.

July 11, 2014 See more In-depth