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Namenda (Memantine): A Cure For Alzheimer’s Disease?

Namemda- An Introduction to one of the newest Alzheimer’s medications.

Namenda (Memantine) was approved by the FDA in October as the newest treatment option for sufferers of Alzheimer’s disease. Memantine is marketed in the United States by Forest Laboratories and will be sold under the brand name of the Namenda, for patients with moderate to severe Alzheimer’s Disease. Forest Laboratories has stated that Namenda should be on the pharmacy shelves in January, 2004. Namenda has been sold for quite some time in Germany and Canada, and many U.S. families have been purchasing it over the internet for awhile. It is estimated that approximately 4 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, and about one million of them are believed to suffer severe symptoms. This will be the first time in which a medication is being offered for patients in the moderate to severe stage of the disease.

How will Namenda help?

Namenda has been found to help improve the memories and thinking skills of some patients who have moderate to severe impairments in their cognition (ability to think). However for the vast majority, the drug has been found to slow the pace of deterioration, allowing some patients to maintain their abilities to function somewhat independently for a longer period of time, which may benefit the patient and caregivers in some very important ways.

How is Namenda different from other Alzheimer’s medications?

While there are a few similarities between Namenda and other Alzheimer’s medications currently on the market, there are many more differences. Namenda is similar in that like the other Alzheimer’s medications (Aricept, Exelon, Reminyl and Cognex) it does not usually improve functioning as much as it retards the deterioration, allowing individuals to maintain independent functioning for a longer period of time. The most prominent difference is that these other medications are known to only be effective in the early stages of the disease, while Namenda is the first to have demonstrated effectiveness in the moderate to severe stages of Alzheimer’s. These other drugs delay the breakdown of another brain chemical called acetylcholine, which is necessary in the communication between nerve cells. Namenda naturally blocks excess amounts of another brain chemical called glutamate, which has been found to damage or kill nerve cells. Ultimately, doctors may eventually be able to prescribe combinations of medications in the hopes of better results.

Why should we feel hopeful about Namenda?

As just mentioned, doctor’s may be able to possibly use Aricept, Exelon, Reminyl or Cognex in the early stage the disease and possibly transition to a medication such as Namenda as the disease progresses to a more severe level of disability. It is recommended by the FDA’s scientific advisors whom have evaluated the drug, to recognize that Namenda does not offer miraculous benefits, and should not be a source of false hope to families of the most severely ill patients with Alzheimer’s. However, it is just another step in the progression of the development of medications which forestall the progressive deterioration of memory, and eventually may be an avenue toward a cure.

Namenda Side Effects: Special Warnings

What Namenda side effects may occur?

Although Namenda side effects cannot be anticipated, if any develop or change in intensity you need to contact your doctor immediately. Only your doctor can determine if it is still safe to continue taking this memory drug in spite of the Namenda side effects.

The Namenda side effects may include:

Confusion, constipation, coughing, dizziness, hallucinations, headache, high blood pressure, pain, sleepiness, vomiting

Namenda side effects and special warnings:

Namenda is not recommended for patients who have severe kidney impairment. There are various disease conditions that may alter the alkaline balance of the urine, which then may cause a build up of this medication in your body. You should always tell your physician about any major dietary changes, kidney problems such as renal acidosis, or urinary tract infections.

You should always make sure your doctor has information about any history of seizures that you may have. In addition to the previously mentioned Namenda side effects, this medication has not been formally studied among people with seizure disorders.

Namenda side effects and food and drug interactions:

In addition to the Namenda side effects, this medication should not be taken with certain other drugs as the effects can either be increased, decreased or altered in some other way. It is always important to check with your physician when combining Namenda with any of the following medications:

Amantadine (Symmetrel)
Cimetidine (Tagamet, Tagamet HB)
Cough suppressants that contain dextromethorphan (usually denoted as “DM”)
Glaucoma drug such as Diamox and Neptazane
Hydrochlorothiazide (HydroDIURIL)
Ketamine (Ketalar)
Nicotine (Nicoderm patch, Nicorette gum)
Quinidine (Quinidex)
Ranitidine (Zantac)
Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda, Alka-Seltzer)
Triamterene (Dyrenium DM)
You always need to be very sensitive to the combination of medications in addition to an awareness of any Namenda side effects.

Namenda Dosage: What is the recommended amount?

Namenda dosage for adults:

The recommended Namenda dosage is 10 mg twice a day. The Namenda dosage at the initiation of therapy is usually recommended to be 5 mg once a day for seven days, and then gradually increased by 5 mg every seven days up to a maximum Namenda dosage of 20 mg.

If side effects occur, your doctor may want to wait for about a week to increase the dose. Also, people who have impaired kidney function may also require lower doses.

Namenda dosage: How do you take this memory drug?

Namenda should be taken exactly as prescribed by your physician. The usual Namenda dosage is increased gradually in one-week intervals. Most physicians wait at least one week before increasing the dose. Dosages above the recommended amount have no additional benefit. This medication may be taken with or without food.

If you miss your dose…
You should take your forgotten dosage as soon as you remember, however, if it is almost time for your next dose, you should skip the missed one and continue on your regular schedule. You should never take two doses of Namenda at the same time.

Storage instructions…

You should always store this medication at room temperature.

Namenda Overdosage:

If your Namenda dosage is taken in excess of the recommended amount it may have serious consequences. If you suspect that you have taken too much, you should seek emergency treatment immediately.

Symptoms of Namenda overdosage may include…

Hallucinations, loss of consciousness, psychosis, restlessness, sleepiness, stupor

Taking the correct Namenda dosage is absolutely essential for the effective treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

By Paul Susic Ph.D. Licensed Psychologist

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