Namenda (Memantine): Medication for Alzheimer’s disease?

Is Namenda (Memantine) a good medication for Alzheimer’s disease?

Namenda (Memantine) is one of the newer medications approved by the FDA for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. This Alzheimer’s disease medication is manufactured by Forest Laboratories and is marketed in the United States under the name of Namenda for patients who are suffering from moderate to more severe forms of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. It began being marketed in January, 2004 in the United States although it previously was sold for some time in Canada and Germany. Many families of Alzheimer’s or dementia patients have been purchasing the medication from Canada for some time over the Internet. Some of the current estimates are that possibly 4 million patients currently have Alzheimer’s disease, with about 1 million suffering from severe symptoms of dementia. Namenda (Memantine) medication is the first drug offered for use with patients in the moderate to severe stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

Does Namenda (Memantine) medication help?

Namenda has been found to help with the thinking and memory skills of patients who have moderate to severe impairment in their cognition. Cognition is their ability to think through their problems. Namenda does not help everyone but has been found to help some people to slow the pace of deterioration, which allows some individuals to maintain some of their cognitive skills and functioning capabilities for a longer period of time. This obviously helps both the Alzheimer’s patient and the caregivers in many ways.

Is Namenda (Memantine) different from any other Alzheimer’s medications?

There are some similarities between Namenda and some of the other Alzheimer’s and memory drugs on the market. However, there are actually more differences than similarities. One of the main similarities is that very much like other Alzheimer’s medications (Aricept, Exelon, Reminyl and Cognex) it does not really improve the functioning or memory skills of the individual. It merely retards the deterioration, which then allows the individual to function at a higher level and maintain their independence for a longer period of time. Additionally, the most prominent feature of Namenda is that unlike the other Alzheimer’s medications it is known to be more effective in the moderate to severe stages of the disease. Some of the other medications seem to be more oriented toward the mild to moderate stages and are rarely prescribed for individuals who have more pronounced symptoms. These other medications delay the breakdown of the brain chemical acetylcholine, which is a neurotransmitter and extremely important to the communication between nerve cells in the brain. Namenda blocks excess amounts of the neurotransmitter glutamate, which is believed to damage and/or kill nerve cells in the brain. Physicians now prescribe combinations of the memory medications to get better results and to ease the transition from the mild to moderate or severe stages of the disease.

Is there much hope for Namenda?

One of the newer developments is that doctors now use Namenda with Aricept and other memory medications as an adjunctive treatment and also to assist as Alzheimer’s disease continues to progress. However, this medication is not considered to be a miraculous cure for Alzheimer’s disease. It should not be given a false sense of hope that it is going to turn back the hands of time and restore previous memory and functioning. Even for patients with the most severe symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, this is considered merely a means to delay the deterioration in memory. Also however, it may be an additional step toward more effective treatments and possibly, eventually a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.

Namenda Side Effects:

Vomiting, sleepiness, pain, high blood pressure, headache, hallucinations, dizziness, coughing, constipation, confusion

Namenda Special Warnings and Side Effects:

This medication is not recommended for people with severe kidney impairment. Also, there are disease conditions which cause or alter the alkaline balance in the urine, which could result in a buildup of this medication in your body. You should always tell your doctor about any kidney problems such as renal acidosis, urinary tract infections or major dietary changes.

Namenda Side Effects and Drug and Food Interactions:

In addition to the Namenda side effects mentioned above, this medication should not be taken with some other medications as the effects of either or both may be increased, decreased or altered in some other way. As always it is important check with your doctor before you take Namenda with any of the following medications:

Amantadine (Symmetrel)
Cimetidine (Tagamet, Tagamet HB)
Cough suppressants that contain dextromethorphan (usually denoted as “DM”)
Glaucoma drug such as Diamox and Neptazane
Hydrochlorothiazide (HydroDIURIL)
Ketamine (Ketalar)
Nicotine (Nicoderm patch, Nicorette gum)
Quinidine (Quinidex)
Ranitidine (Zantac)
Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda, Alka-Seltzer)
Triamterene (Dyrenium DM)

Namenda Dosages:

Recommended Namenda Dosages for Adults:

The recommended Namenda dosage for adults is 10 mg taken twice a day. At the initiation of treatment with this medication, it is recommended to take it at the dose or 5 mg once a day for seven days, and then gradually increasing it by 5 mg every seven days, up to a maximum dosage of 20 mg.

As you increase Namenda and you notice any side effects, your doctor may want to wait a week or so before increasing you dosage. Your physician may also be very careful with people who have impaired kidney functioning and may stay at a lower dosage.

How should your Namenda dosage be taken?

Namenda should be taken exactly as prescribed by your doctor. As mentioned above, the usual Namenda dosage is increased gradually over one week intervals, usually at the level of 5 mg per week. Most doctors will wait a week before increasing the dosage. Taking dosages in it excess of the recommended amount will have no additional benefit for the patient. This medication can be taken with or without food.

Missed doses….

If you miss your latest dose of Namenda you should take it as soon as possible. However, if it is almost time for the next dose you should skip the missed dosage and return to your usual dosing schedule. Never take two doses of Namenda at the same time.

How do you store Namenda?

This medication should be stored at room temperature.

Over dosage of Namenda:

If Namenda is taken in excess of the recommended dosage you may have serious consequences. If you believe you may have taken an over dosage of this medication, you should call your doctor or seek immediate emergency medical attention.

Symptoms of Namenda overdosage:

Stupor, sleepiness, restlessness, psychosis, loss of consciousness, hallucinations
Taking this medication as directed is absolutely essential to the effective use of this medication for Alzheimer’s disease.

Adapted from the PDR Family Guide to Prescription Drugs 9th Edition by Paul Susic Ph.D. Licensed Psychologist

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