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At what point should memory enhancing medicines be discontinued?

Do the medicines play a role in extending the patient's life or simply enhance the brain function for a bit longer? My husband is in the moderate stage of AD and I'm beginning to see more changes as the disease progresses. I want him to have good quality of life for as long as possible but I fear for what he will have to go through before the end. Since he seems to have side effects from most medicines, I'd like to know when is the proper time is to discontinue them.
Status: Open    Dec 03, 2014 - 08:42 AM


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Expert Answers

Dec 08, 2014 - 10:42 AM

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the current Alzheimer medications do not cure or stop the progression of the disease. However, they work to lessen the symptoms related to memory loss, confusion, thinking problems and reasoning disorders.

Presently, there are 2 medications (Exelon, Razadyne) approved to treat mild and moderate Alzheimer’s. Aricept is approved to treat all stages of the disease. Namenda is approved for treatment of moderate to severe Alzheimer’s.

Exelon, Razadyne and Aricept seem to be well tolerated. If there are any side effects, they tend to be mild such as loss of appetite or nausea. Namenda may cause headaches, constipation, confusion and dizziness as side effects.

High doses of Vitamin E have been prescribed by some physicians. No one should ever use Vitamin E unless under the supervision of a physician. Vitamin E is not approved for Alzheimer’s treatment, but there are some studies looking at its possibility for use.

Some symptoms of side effects in the use of these drugs can, also, be because of drug interactions with other medications. That is why it is crucial that the doctor is notified when the individual takes a new medication.

If you have concerns about your husband’s medication, your husband’s medical provider is still the main person that you need to consult. That is the person who can make the best judgment of when the medication regimen is no longer beneficial. Your husband’s physician does depend upon your input about how your husband is responding to the medical treatment. Do not hesitate to share your observations and concerns.

Alzheimer’s is one condition where there is a great deal of research occurring. If you are not already in contact with the Alzheimer’s Association, I encourage you to do so. has information about the latest research and resources for Alzheimer’s patients and families. They also have a weekly e-newsletter that you may want to get. The website has a Navigator that helps you create a customized action plan and to provide access to information, support and local resources for your husband and you.


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