What Is Namenda (Memantine), How Does It Work and When Is It Used?

Dr. Paul Aisen answers the question: 'Using Namenda for Alzheimer's Disease?'

May 4, 2009 -- Question: What is Namenda (memantine), how does it work and when is it used?

Answer: There are two classes of drugs that are used to treat the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease – the cholinesterase inhibitors and NMDA antagonists. That second class has one member and that's Namenda, which is the brand name for memantine.

Memantine works not by boosting levels of acetylcholine, as do the cholinesterase inhibitors, but rather it works on another chemical system in the brain involving glutamate, also a neurotransmitter.

Namenda, or memantine, is useful in modestly improving the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, particularly at the moderate to severe stage of disease. So, individuals at that stage will often find some modest degree of improvement in memory or other aspects of cognition and behavior when they take memantine.