Acetylcholinesterase Inhibitors

Alzheimers causes the destruction of neurons. It also destroys the important chemical messenger acetylcholine, which is responsible for memory and other cognitive skills.

While no drug has yet been shown to completely protect the brain against the effects of Alzheimers, drugs that protect acetylcholine from destruction appear to hold the symptoms at bay for a while longer. These medications are known as acetylcholinesterase inhibitors (AChE inhibitors) and include :

  • Aricept
  • Exelon
  • Reminyl

For the acetylcholinesterase inhibitor drugs, the dose of medication is started low and gradually increased to the recommended level. Tolerance (the drug no longer provides the same benefit) may occur.

It is also important to know that these medications are expensive, averaging in the neighborhood of $130 per month. Your insurance or health cover may or may not cover the costs of this drug.

Reminyl Warning: in April 2005, Reminyls label was changed to include information about the deaths of 13 elderly patients who were taking the drug during a study. The deaths were due to various causes, including heart attack and stroke.

The acetylcholinesterase inhibitors are generally well tolerated by the human body, but some troublesome side effects may occur. These side effects include : nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and weight loss. Often, changing to a lower dose or switching medications solves the problems.