The Alzheimer’s drugs that are available at the moment are only modestly effective. Currently, four drugs are approved for Alzheimer’s treatment, with three drugs belonging to the same class of “cholinesterase inhibitors”.
The drugs are believed to work based on how they affect the brain chemical acetylcholine. The other drug, memantine, belongs to a class of drugs referred to as NMDR receptor antagonists and it is thought to work by affecting the brain chemical glutamate.
These drugs are not Alzheimer’s cures though. They only improve or treat some of the symptoms of the disease for a certain period of time.
The improvements are so subtle that they cannot be detected even by a doctor. The drugs are good in improving some cognitive abilities, behavior and activities of daily life. Unfortunately, even while taking the drugs, a patient’s health continues to deteriorate over time.
The drugs have a modest benefit which can become evident after several months but there are side effects that often appear immediately. The drugs do not improve memory, they only make patients brighter, more engaged in activities, calmer and improve their ability to communicate.
The cholinesterase inhibitors work for mild, moderate and severe Alzheimer’s. Unfortunately, the fact that they increase the chemical acetylcholine in every other part of the body, patients may experience some side effects like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and loss of appetite. Memantine is only effective for moderate and severe Alzheimer’s and it has no gastro-intestinal side effects.
Drug effectiveness will mean different things for different people but the underlying factor is that Alzheimer’s drugs do not treat the disease but only the symptoms.