Alzheimer Disease Pharmacologic Treatment and Treatment Research

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Purpose of Review: This article reviews marketed pharmacologic treatments for Alzheimer disease as well as their efficacy, effectiveness, adverse effects, and issues involved in their use, including duration of treatment, adverse events, and controversies. Current experimental drug development, including challenges to developing successful drugs for Alzheimer disease, are also reviewed and assessed.

Recent Findings: Cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine are the available pharmacologic treatment options. They show limited clinical effects over the shorter term for some patients, mild to moderate cholinergic adverse effects in a minority of patients, and potentially underappreciated toxicity over the longer term. No subsequent experimental drug in development has been successful thus far; there has not been a new drug marketed for Alzheimer disease since 2003.

Summary: Cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine are marketed for the treatment of Alzheimer disease. Drug development programs aimed at new targets, including the amyloid-β cascade, have been unsuccessful thus far despite their designs to detect very small or minimal clinical effects from the experimental drugs. Marked advances in preclinical science nevertheless support a basis for considerable optimism that effective interventions will be found soon.

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