In most instances, there are no ways to cure the diseases that cause dementia. There are, however, drugs available that may alleviate some of the symptoms. There are a variety of drugs that can help the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease or slow the progression of the disease.
Medicines to treat dementia
A number of licenced drug therapies are available for the treatment of dementia. The most appropriate treatment depends on a number of factors including the type of dementia the individual has been diagnosed with and whether or not other medical conditions are present. At the RICE centre medical experts are available to provide individually tailored treatment plans for each of our clients.
For the most common form of dementia – Alzheimer’s disease – there are four National Health Service licenced drug treatments which have been clinically proven to help slow the disease process, however none of these treatments provide a cure for the condition. The first class of drugs used for treating Alzheimer’s disease are called cholinesterase inhibitors. Three of the four drug treatments for Alzheimer’s disease – i.e., Donepezil, Rivastigmine and Galantamine – fall within this classification. These drugs work by stopping the breakdown of a chemical in the brain called acetylcholine, each of the three drugs do this in a different way. Acetylcholine is important for brain cell communication, increasing the concentration of this chemical in the brains of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease can produce temporary improvement or stabilisation of symptoms (e.g., improved memory performance and better day-to-day functioning). The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends that cholinesterase inhibitors are suitable only for individuals with mild to moderate dementia. The second form of drug therapy used for treating Alzheimer’s diseases works on a different set of brain chemicals than the three cholinesterase inhibitors discussed previously. Memantine blocks a chemical messenger called glutamate which, when present in large quantities, can disrupt and damage brain cells reducing their ability to communicate with each other. NICE recommends Memantine only be used for moderate to severe dementia.
The RICE centre is also involved in a number of clinical trials which test the effectiveness of pharmacological treatments for dementia; some of these trials involve testing new drugs in isolation, while others explore combinations of new and existing drug treatments. Individuals with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease (and occasionally other forms are dementia) are eligible to take part in these trails. Please contact a member of RICE medical staff if you would like further information about enrolling in one of our clinical trials.
Medicines to treat other symptoms
We can advise your GP on other medicines which treat the symptoms of dementia such as if you feel aggressive, restless, anxious or depressed.
Cognitive Stimulation Therapy (CST) is a 7-week cognitive-based approach for dementia that has shown to be beneficial for cognition and quality of life. At RICE we offer free CST courses for people with dementia. Please see the section on Cognitive Stimulation Therapy for further information on this service.