How Does Namenda Work for Alzheimer’s Disease?

Namenda (Memantine) is an FDA-approved drug that is one of the treatment options for seniors suffering from Alzheimer’s disease (AD). You might be wondering what is Namenda used for and how does Namenda work? The drug lessens the spread of the chemicals in the brain associated with symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Namenda belongs to a group of medications called NMDA receptor antagonists which decrease the abnormality found in the brain. Like any drug you take it’s also important to ask what are the side effects of Namenda in elderly people?

Let’s start with what is Namenda used for. Doctors prescribe Namenda in order to improve the cognitive and memory function of a patient or slow down the progression of the disease. However, Namenda does not cure Alzheimer’s disease or halt the deterioration of the brain. So how does Namenda work?

Forest Laboratories markets Memantine across the United States  under the brand Namenda. Patients with moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease benefit the most from Namenda.

There are over 4,000,000 Americans diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and 1,000,000 of them are suffering from severe symptoms. Namenda (Memantine) is the first medication offered to patients with moderate to severe symptoms.

Namenda can help with cognitive decline

How Does Namenda Work?

The FDA approved Memantine (Namenda) for the improvement of the memory and thinking skills of patients with severe cognitive impairments. For most people, Namenda slows the deterioration of the disease. Therefore, AD patients maintain their cognitive abilities to function independently for a longer period. This leads to a better quality of life.

What is Namenda Used for that is Different than other Medications?

There are a few similarities between Namenda and other Alzheimer’s medications. However, there are more differences than similarities.

Other AD medications such as

  • Aricept
  • Cognex
  • Exelon, and
  • Reminyl

are similar to Namenda in the sense that the meds do not generally improve functioning. Instead they slow down the progression of the disease, allowing AD patients to retain their independent functioning for a prolonged period of time.

It is important to know how does Namenda work vs these other medications. The main difference between Namenda and other AD drugs is that the other medications are only effective during the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Namenda is actually the first drug that targets moderate to severe stages of AD.

Another difference is that other drugs delay the breakdown of acetylcholine – a brain chemical that’s needed in the communication between nerve cells. Namenda, on the other hand, commonly blocks the excess amounts of glutamate – another brain chemical that can potentially damage and kill nerve cells. Hopefully, doctors are able to prescribe a combination of these drugs for better results.

What Should You Expect From Namenda (Memantine)?

As mentioned, hopefully the doctors are able to find a way to use Aricept, Cognex, Exelon, and Reminyl in the early detection of the AD. Then they can slowly transition to Namenda when the disease worsens. However, scientific advisors from the FDA who evaluated the drug are adamant about informing the families that Namenda is not a miracle drug. It should not be a source of false hope to families and severely ill Alzheimer’s patients. However, Namenda is a huge step towards the development of Alzheimer’s medications. Hopefully, it will lead to a full-blown cure for AD.

 A husband explaining to his wife how does Namenda work

What Are The Side Effects of Namenda in Elderly People?

There are side effects of Namenda in elderly people. If your loved one notices any change in their health, do not hesitate to contact a physician as soon as possible. Your loved one’s doctor will be the one to determine whether it is still safe for them. Some side effects include:

  • Weight gain
  • Pain anywhere in your body, especially your back
  • Cough
  • Dizziness
  • Sleepiness
  • Diarrhea
  • Aggression
  • Depression
  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Headache
  • Vomiting

Many side effects brought about by Memantine can be serious. It might be hard to see how does Namenda work without side effects. If your loved one experiences any of the following symptoms, get help immediately. Notify their doctor call 911. More serious side effects include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Hallucination (seeing things or hearing voices that do not exist)

It is possible that Namenda may cause other side effects not found on the list. Be sure to call your loved one’s doctor if there are any problems while taking the medicine.

Special Warnings for Namenda

When asking what is Namenda used for, it’s important to remember that a combination of diseases may not be appropriate this drug. Alzheimer’s disease patients who have severe kidney problems are not advised to take Namenda. Certain disease conditions may alter the alkaline balance of the urine and in turn, cause a build-up of the drug in your loved one’s body. For this reason, it is always wise to inform your loved one’s doctor about any major changes in diet and any diseases they do not know about such as renal acidosis or UTIs (urinary tract infection).

You should always inform the physician if your loved one has a history of seizures. This drug has not been formally studied in people with seizure disorders – in addition to the mentioned side effects.

Food and Drug Interactions

How does Namenda work with other drugs or certain foods? Namenda Memantine cannot be taken with certain drugs since the effectiveness of the drug can be increased, decreased, or altered in a certain way. Always inform your loved one’s physician if your loved one plans to take Namenda with any of the following medications:

  • Amantadine (Symmetrel)
  • Cimetidine (Tagamet, Tagamet HB)
  • Cough suppressants that contain dextromethorphan (usually denoted as “DM”)
  • Glaucoma drugs 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 aware when combining medications with Namenda (or any other drug, for that matter) as it may be dangerous for your loved one or the drug may simply not work at all.

If you feel like your loved one is experiencing a serious side effect, you or the physician may send a report to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Adverse Event Reporting program online or call them on the phone (1-800-332-1088).

What is The Recommended Dosage?

Generally, the recommended dosage of Namenda is 10 mg to be taken twice daily. During the initiation of therapy, physicians usually recommend 5mg once a day for seven days. Then gradually increase the dosage by 5mg every seven days. The maximum dosage should be 20mg.

If your loved one experiences the mentioned side effects, his/her doctor may want to wait for another week before increasing the dose. People with kidney problems may also need to drink Namenda in lower doses.

A man & woman discussing the possible side effects of Namenda in elderly people

How Should Namenda Be Taken?

Advise your loved one to take the drug exactly how the doctor prescribed it – gradually increasing the dosage. If your loved one takes a higher or lower dosage than recommended, the drug might have no additional benefit. Worse, you may experience serious health issues. Also, the drug can be taken with or without food.

What Happens If You Miss a Dose?

Tell your loved one to take the dose as soon as your loved one remembers. However, if it’s almost time for the next dose, it’s okay to skip the missed one and continue on with the schedule prescribed by the doctor. Remember to inform your loved one that it is never okay to take two doses of the drug at the same time. It may potentially lead to a drug overdose.

Drug Overdose

Speaking of a drug overdose, if the drug has been taken more than the recommended amount, it may pose serious health risks. The side effects of Namenda in elderly people may be amplified.  If your loved one has taken excessive amounts of Memantine, seek help immediately. Call the local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222. If your loved one has fainted or is not breathing, call 911.

One of our homes, A Parent’s Paradise at 164th Lane in Surprise AZ, specializes in residents with moderate to severe dementia and Alzheimer’s. Feel free to call us. We have a long list of resources that can help.

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From Pilot to Paradise: Meet Hal Cranmer!

From Pilot to Paradise: Meet Hal Cranmer!

Mr. Cranmer went from Air Force Special Operations Pilot to Airline Pilot to running a multimillion dollar manufacturing plant after 9/11 ended his flying career. Now he is bringing his business expertise to his true passion - taking care of seniors in his 'A Paradise for Parents' assisted living homes in Surprise and Goodyear, AZ. Read Hal's crazy career story, 'From Air Force Pilot to Assisted Living Owner'. Click the button to send Hal a message!

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