May 4, 2009 -- Question: What are cholinesterase inhibitors (donepezil, galantamine, rviastigmine), how are they used to treat Alzheimer's disease, and what are the side effects?
Answer: Cholinesterase inhibitors are the largest group of drugs available for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. In Alzheimer's disease the primary symptoms reflect cognitive impairment, particularly memory difficulty. And we now know that memory and other cognitive functions require a specific chemical in the brain and that's called acetylcholine.
The cholinesterase inhibitors are drugs that boost the activity of acetylcholine in the brain and, therefore, they partially compensate for the impairment in cognitive function in Alzheimer's disease. They provide modest but significant improvement to memory for people with Alzheimer's disease.