Drugs approved for Alzheimer’s disease
There are several medications that can help with symptoms such as memory decline, changes in language, thinking abilities and motor skills. Although there is still no cure for Alzheimer's disease, those who respond to these treatments can experience improvements in their quality of life for several years.
Mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease
Three cholinesterase inhibitors are available in Canada to treat symptoms in people with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease:
- Reminyl® (Health Canada advisory - New Safety Information Regarding the Risk of Serious Skin Reactions)
Cholinesterase inhibitors help by improving the ability of impaired nerve endings to transmit messages from one nerve cell to another. Depending on the medication, the user may experience different side-effects. These medications may be helpful for two to three years, possibly longer. Eventually, nerve endings degenerate and drugs are no longer effective.
Moderate to advanced Alzheimer's disease
As Alzheimer's disease progresses, the neurotransmitter glutamate leaks out of nerve cells and is reabsorbed at levels that are toxic to the cell. Memantine hydrochloride (Ebixa®) works by blocking the reabsorption of glutamate into nerve cells.
In areas of Canada where Alzheimer medications are now covered, individuals must meet specific clinical criteria. These medications are covered by most private insurance plans.
How drugs are approved in Canada
It is the responsibility of the Therapeutic Products Directorate (TPD) of the Health Products and Food Branch (HPFB), Health Canada, to ensure that all drugs used by the public are of high quality, safe and effective for specific conditions. This responsibility includes ensuring that drug companies have tested the drugs they wish to market and that the public is protected during each stage of the drug's development.
To learn more about the drug approval process, visit our Resources below.
- For more details on these four medications, please download our full brochure: Medications for Alzheimer’s disease: are they right for you?
- Drug approval process for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, Alzheimer Society of Canada
- How are medicines developed?, Alzheimer's Disease International
Note: The contents of this page are provided for information purposes only, and do not represent advice, an endorsement or a recommendation, with respect to any product, service or enterprise, and/or the claims and properties thereof, by the Alzheimer Society of Canada.