Alzheimer’s is a complex disease and recent breakthroughs in treatment are bringing hope to individuals affected by the disease and their families. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved several new medications to help manage the symptoms or treat the disease. Following is an overview of each.

Cholinesterase inhibitors such as Galantamine (Razadyne), Rivastigmine (Exelon) and Donepezil (Aracept) are prescribed for mild to moderate Alzheimer’s symptoms. Taken orally in pill or tablet form, these drugs may help reduce or control some cognitive and behavioral symptoms. Because cholinesterase inhibitors work in a similar way, switching from one to another may not produce significantly different results, but patients may respond better to one drug versus another. The latest guidelines suggest that these three drugs be continued in the later, severe stages of the disease. 

Lecanemab (Leqembi®), a monoclonal antibody directed against Amyloid beta, is currently the only disease modifying therapy (DMT) with full traditional FDA approval, explained Christopher Hancock, MD, a preeminent expert certified in diagnostic radiology and neuroradiology. “Lecanemab marketed as Leqembi, is indicated for people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or the mild form of Alzheimer’s disease,” he adds. Lecanemab is delivered through IV over one hour every two weeks.

The FDA granted accelerated approval for Aducanumab (Aduhelm) in 2021, which is also an immunotherapy for people living with the early stages or mild symptoms of the disease. The drug company must conduct additional studies on the clinical benefits to gain full FDA approval. This medication is delivered through IV over one hour every four weeks. 

Memantine (Namenda) can be prescribed for moderate to severe Alzheimer’s. This drug decreases symptoms, which could enable some patients to maintain certain daily functions a little longer than they would without the medication. Delivered once or twice a day through a tablet, liquid or an extended-release capsule, Memantine is suitable for those who cannot take or are unable to tolerate cholinesterase inhibitors such as Galantamine, Rivastigmine and Donepezil. 

When asked about other research efforts, Dr. Hancock expounded, “Many Alzheimer’s disease researchers and clinicians are excited about additional monoclonal antibody treatments currently being developed to prevent and treat expanded stages of Alzheimer’s disease. I am most hopeful, however, in using adjunctive lifestyle modifications, including restorative sleep hygiene, high intensity strength and cardiovascular exercise, and the specific dietary approaches of low carbohydrate and nutritional ketogenic diets.” 

Currently the director of neuroradiology and the neuroscience innovation officer at HALO Diagnostics Desert Cities, Hancock has authored and co-authored journal articles and internet publications on many topics, including Alzheimer’s disease/dementia. 

If you are considering taking an Alzheimer’s medication, talk with your physician about options, including clinical trials. Also, be sure to ask about the medication side effects, as they can be severe. And lastly, work with your health care provider to determine the best treatment plan because Alzheimer’s affects everyone differently and treatment is highly individualized.

Patricia Riley is a board member of Alzheimers Coachella Valley, a community resource for dementia support and education. For more information, call (760) 776.3100 or visit

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