Dr. Guy Eakin: Hi! I am Dr. Guy Eakin. Today I am talking about Alzheimer's disease and available treatments for this debilitating illness. Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer's or even a method to prevent progression of this disease. Of the 10 greatest causes of death in the United States, Alzheimer's is the only disease for which there is no known prevention.
However there are medications that can help control its symptoms and other treatments are also available to help manage agitation, depression or psychotic symptoms that may occur as the disease progresses. The US Food and Drug Administration has approved four drugs called cholinesterase inhibitors designed to regulate and manage symptoms of patients in the early to middle stages of the disease.
Those, suffering from Alzheimer's, have low levels of acetylcholine, an important brain chemical, involved in nerve cell communication. These drugs slow the metabolic breakdown of acetylcholine and make more of this chemical available for communication between the cells. This helps slow the progression of cognitive decline.
The four FDA approved drugs are Razadyne, Exelon, Aricept and Cognex. In 2006, Aricept was also approved by the FDA to manage severe Alzheimer's symptoms. For severe Alzheimer's disease a fifth drunk that operates by a different mechanism has been approved, Namenda most likely works by modulating the levels of another chemical signal called glutamate. Although there is no cure, these drugs help patients cope with their day-to-day lives.