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Namenda (Memantine): A cure for Alzheimer's Disease?



Namemda- An Introduction to the newest Alzheimer’s medication:


10 FP NamendaNamenda (Memantine) was approved by the FDA in October as the newest treatment option for sufferers of Alzheimer’s disease. Memantine is marketed in the United States by Forest  Laboratories and will be sold under the brand name of the Namenda, for patients with moderate to severe Alzheimer’s Disease.  Forest Laboratories has stated that Namenda should be on the pharmacy shelves in January, 2004.  Namenda has been sold for quite some time in Germany and Canada, and many U.S. families have been purchasing it over the internet for awhile. It is estimated that approximately 4 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, and about one million of them are believed to suffer severe symptoms. This will be the first time in which a medication is being offered for patients in the moderate to severe stage of the disease.


How will Namenda help?


Namenda has been found to help improve the memories and thinking skills of some patients who have moderate to severe impairments in their cognition (ability to think). However for the vast majority, the  drug has been found to slow the pace of deterioration, allowing some patients to maintain their abilities to function somewhat independently for a longer period of time, which may benefit the patient and caregivers in some very important ways.


How is Namenda different from other Alzheimer’s medications?


While there are a few similarities between Namenda and other Alzheimer’s medications currently on the market, there are many more differences. Namenda is similar in that like the other Alzheimer’s medications (Aricept, Exelon, Reminyl and Cognex) it does not usually improve functioning as much as it retards the deterioration, allowing individuals to maintain independent functioning for a longer period of time. The most prominent difference is that these other medications are known to only be effective in the early stages of the disease, while Namenda is the first to have demonstrated  effectiveness in the moderate to severe stages of Alzheimer’s. These other drugs delay the breakdown of another brain chemical called acetylcholine, which is necessary in the communication between nerve cells.  Namenda naturally blocks excess amounts of another brain chemical called glutamate, which has been found to damage or kill nerve cells. Ultimately, doctors may eventually be able to prescribe combinations of medications in the hopes of better results.


Why should we feel hopeful about Namenda?


As just mentioned, doctor’s may be able to possibly use Aricept, Exelon, Reminyl or Cognex in the early stage the disease and possibly transition to a medication such as Namenda as the disease progresses to a more severe level of disability.  It is recommended by the FDA’s scientific advisors whom have evaluated the drug, to recognize that Namenda does not offer miraculous benefits, and should not be a source of false hope to families of the most severely ill patients with Alzheimer’s. However, it is just another step in the progression of the development of medications which forestall the progressive deterioration of memory, and eventually may be an avenue toward a cure.



Information adapted from The PDR Pocket Guide to Prescription Drugs 

Namenda picture by permission of Drugs.Com (See additional pictures and dosages)

Additional Information and webpage by Paul Susic MA Licensed Psychologist Ph.D. Candidate                                      

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