Advice and explanations about dementia testing, diagnosis, medical practitioners and medications.

Cholinesterase inhibitors

Cholinesterase inhibitors


Examples of cholinesterase inhibitors

All three drugs are widely available and are taken orally, although Rivastigmine is also available in patch form. (The generic drug name is listed first and the brand-marketed name is in parentheses.)

Donepezil (Aricept)
Galantamine (Razadyne)
Rivastigmine (Exelon)

How they work:

Whether or not we have Alzheimer’s, our bodies create a particular enzyme, which is designed to “destroy” the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, in the synapse, or junction, between nerve cells, after a certain amount of time, Netzer explained.

Our brain cells need that neurotransmitter because it’s an important brain chemical for memory, researchers believe.

In order to keep acetylcholine levels from waning too much, which is common among Alzheimer’s patients as the disease progresses, it’s necessary to introduce an “inhibitor” to “compensate for the loss of the neurotransmitter in the brain,” Netzer said.

The drug stops the destruction of the neurotransmitter, allowing it to stay in the synapse longer.

Drugs such as Aricept, Razadyne and Exelon all perform the same function, which is to block our acetylcholine reserves from being depleted.

These drugs are often categorized as drugs developed for “mild to moderate” stages of Alzheimer’s.

Dementia Drugs: What You Need To Know

How Well Do These Drugs Work?

Example of an NMDA Receptor Antagonis

What About Alternative Treatments?


Matt Kwong is a writer based in Atlanta, Georgia, and Toronto, Ontario

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Matt Kwong

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