Information about Approved Alzheimer's Drugs

Alzheimer's disease is a progressive brain disorder and treatment cannot prevent or stop mental deterioration associated with Alzheimer's. The goals of treatment for Alzheimer's are to prevent the destruction of nerve cells to preserve cognitive function and manage symptoms of the disease. Drugs used to treat Alzheimer's include cholinesterase inhibitors and an NMDA receptor antagonist.

Dosage information represents the usual daily dosages for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. The precise effective dosage varies from person to person and depends on many factors. Do not make any changes to your medication without consulting your doctor. Instructions represent the typical way to take the medication. Your doctor's instructions may differ. Always follow your doctor's recommendations.

Cholinesterase Inhibitors to Treat Alzheimer's Disease

  • Aricept (donepezil)—5-10 mg; take one 5- or 10-mg tablet 1x/day at night just before bed with or without food.
  • Aricept ODT (donepezil, orally disintegrating)—5-10 mg; take one or two 5-mg orally disintegrating tablets 1x/day in the evening just before bedtime with or without food. Place tablet on the tongue. Once tablet has completely dissolved, drink a glass of water.
  • Exelon (rivastigmine)—6-12 mg; take one 3-, 4.5-, or 6-mg capsule 2x/day in the morning and evening with food. Also available in liquid form for people who cannot swallow pills.
  • Exelon Patch (rivastigmine, transdermal)—4.6 or 9.5 mg; apply one 4.6- or 9.5-mg patch 1x/day to the upper or lower back, upper arm, or chest.
  • Razadyne (galantamine)—16-24 mg; take one 8- or 12-mg tablet 2x/day in the morning and evening with food. Also available in liquid form for people who cannot swallow pills.
  • Razadyne ER (galantamine, extended-release)— 16-24 mg; take one 16- or 24-mg capsule 1x/day in the morning with food. Swallow whole (do not crush or chew).

Cholinesterase inhibitors may make you dizzy or drowsy. Patients should use caution when driving or using machinery and limit alcohol consumption. Before having surgery, tell your doctor or dentist you are taking this medicine. Common side effects include nausea, vomiting, appetite/weight loss, and bruising. These effects usually subside in 1-3 weeks.

Call your doctor if any side effects persist or worsen or if you stop taking the drug for several days—you may need to restart at a lower dose.

Namenda (memantine) is a NMDA receptor antagonist approved to treat Alzheimer's. The typical daily dosage of this medication is 20 mg; one 10-mg tablet 2x/day in the morning and evening with or without food. It is also available in liquid form for people who cannot swallow pills.

This medication may make you dizzy or drowsy. Patients should use caution when driving or using machinery and limit alcoholic beverages. Memantine must be administered with caution to people with severe liver disease. Common side effects include dizziness, headaches, confusion, and constipation.

Call your doctor if side effects persist or worsen.

Publication Review By: Peter V. Rabins, M.D., M.P.H.

Published: 22 Mar 2011

Last Modified: 02 Oct 2014