Sunday, September 11, 2016

Current Drug Treatments for Alzheimer's Disease (from the Alzheimer’s Association)

Although there is no cure, Alzheimer's medications can temporarily 
slow the worsening of symptoms and improve quality of life for those 
with Alzheimer's and their caregivers.

FDA-approved drugs:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved five medications (listed below) to treat the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. 

Drug name
Brand name
Approved For
FDA Approved
1. donepezil
All stages
2. galantamine
Mild to moderate
3. memantine
Moderate to severe
4. rivastigmine
All stages
5. donepezil and  memantine
Moderate to severe

How Alzheimer's drugs work:

To understand how Alzheimer's medications work, you first need to understand the communication network in the brain. Neurons are the chief cells destroyed by Alzheimer's disease.

In the brain, neurons connect and communicate at synapses, where tiny 
bursts of chemicals called neurotransmitters carry information from one 
cell to another. Alzheimer's disrupts this process, and eventually destroys 
synapses and kills neurons, damaging the brain's communication network.

Current FDA-approved Alzheimer's drugs support this communication process through two different mechanisms:

1) Cholinesterase inhibitors work by slowing down the process that breaks 
down a key neurotransmitter. Donepezil, galantamine and rivastigmine are cholinesterase inhibitors.

2) Memantine, the fifth Alzheimer's drug, is an NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate) receptor antagonist, which works by regulating the activity of glutamate, an important neurotransmitter in the brain involved in learning and memory. 

Attachment of glutamate to cell surface "docking sites" called NMDA 
receptors permits calcium to enter the cell. This process is important for cell signaling, as well as learning and memory. In Alzheimer’s disease, however, 
excess glutamate can be released from damaged cells, leading to chronic overexposure to calcium, which can speed up cell damage. Memantine helps 
prevent this destructive chain of events by partially blocking the NMDA receptors The effectiveness of cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine varies across the population.

Catalyst to progress:

The first Alzheimer's Association grants, awarded in 1982, included a study exploring the nerve cell communication network targeted by cholinesterase inhibitors, today's mainstay of drug treatment. Association-funded work has contributed important insights to the knowledge base supporting virtually 
every FDA-approved and investigational Alzheimer's treatment. Learn more 
about our commitment to research.

Future treatment breakthroughs:

Researchers are looking for new ways to treat Alzheimer's. Current drugs help mask the symptoms of Alzheimer's, but do not treat the underlying disease or delay its progression. A breakthrough Alzheimer's drug would treat the underlying disease and stop or delay the cell damage that eventually leads to the worsening of symptoms. There are several promising drugs in development and testing, but we need more volunteers to complete clinical trials of those drugs and increased federal funding of research to ensure that fresh ideas continue to fill the pipeline.

            from the Alzheimer’s Association 

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