Quick Overview of FDA-Approved Dementia Medications for Symptom Management

October 13, 2023
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Bre'anna Wilson
July 16, 2023
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There are three main types of FDA-approved medication categories:

  1. Cholinesterase Inhibitors
  2. Glutamate Regulators
  3. Cholinesterase Inhibitors + Glutamate Regulators


1. Cholinesterase Inhibitors

Inhibits the enzyme acetylcholinesterase (which breaks down acetylcholine). Acetylcholine plays an important role in memory and learning. Goal is to treat symptoms related to memory, thinking, language, judgment, and other thought processes.


  • Aricept (Donepezil) — All Stages of AD
  • Razadyne (Galantamine) — Mild to Moderate AD
  • Exelon (Rivastigmine) — Mild to Moderate AD or PDD


Common side effects:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Vertigo
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight Loss
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Constipation
  • Increased Bowel Movements


2. Glutamate Regulator

Regulates the activity of glutamate. Glutamate plays an important role in helping the brain process information. Goal is to improve memory, attention, reason, language, and ability to perform simple tasks.


  • Namenda (Memantine) — Moderate to Severe AD


Common Side Effects:

  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Constipation
  • Hallucinations


3. Cholinesterase Inhibitor + Glutamate Regulator

Combination drug.


  • Namzaric (Donepezil and Memantine) — Moderate to Severe AD


Common Side Effects:

  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Ecchymosis (bruising)
  • Hallucinations


Important Notes:

There is no evidence that any of the above medications prevent or slow neurodegeneration in people with Alzheimer’s disease. There are solely for symptom management.


There are more potential side effects than have been listed for the above medications.

Please talk to you or your partner’s doctor for specific advice and recommendations regarding any medications.  


AD = Alzheimer's Disease

PDD = Parkinson's Disease Dementia



To learn more about these FDA-approved medications including Aduhelm and Leqembi check out this link:

https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/treatments/medications-for-memory

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