Medications used in the treatment of dementia fall into two main categories, those that aim to slow the progression of the disease symptoms (see below), and those that your doctor think may help make the illness easier to live with. You may be interested to read the Alzheimer's Society Factsheet about drugs used to relieve behavioural symptoms.
Drug Treatments for Alzheimer's Disease
At present no drug treatments can provide a cure for Alzheimer's disease. However in recent years several drugs (Donepezil, Galantamine, Rivastigmine), have been developed that assist the transmission of nerve impulses within the brain. For some people these drugs will temporarily slow the progression of Alzheimer's symptoms in the early stages of the disease.
There is also a newer drug, called Memantine, that works in a different way, and may slow progression of Alzheimer's symptoms later in the disease.
More detailed information on all four of these medications can be found in the Alzheimer's Society Factsheet Drug treatments for Alzheimer's disease.
Currently, in Kent and Medway, NHS prescriptions
of these dementia drugs are initially given through the Memory
Clinics only. This allows a thorough clinical assessment of
each person to take place before and after prescribing takes place. In
this way the Memory Clinic is able to ensure appropriate treatment is
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) is a government advisory committee that has the responsibility of recommending whether or not the dementia drugs remain available on the NHS. NICE has decided to keep its original guidance that Alzheimer's drugs should only be prescribed to people in the 'moderate' stages of the disease, and not in the early or later stages
For more information on the NICE revised guidance on anti-Alzheimer's drugs, see: Drugs information addendum, Jan 2007
Your doctor should be able to advise you about the current guidance. If the drug your doctor recommends is not currently available on the NHS, private prescriptions can be obtained from consultants, GPs or private hospitals (costs may vary).
The Royal College of Psychiatrists public information leaflet Drug Treatment of Alzheimer's disease has information on these drugs, and also includes information about other possible treatments.
Repeat Prescriptions, Collection Services, and Dossette Boxes
It can sometimes be difficult to remember to take medication at the right time, or to reorder regular medications before they run out. Ask your doctors surgery or pharmacy about how repeat prescriptions and prescription collection services might make getting your medication easier.
A pharmacist or local chemist’s should also be able to advise you about dosette boxes. These are boxes with separate pill compartments for different times of the day and days of the week. These can sometimes help people to remember to take tablets at the right time. Some pharmacists also issue medication in a prepared system (sometimes called Nomad) or blister packs in place of the dosette box.
Automatic versions are also available; the dispenser beeps and a small opening allows access to the tablets when they are due to be taken. There are medication reminders and dispensers on the ‘atdementia’ product pages http://www.atdementia.org.uk