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Memantine for Alzheimer's Disease


Generic NameBrand Name

How It Works

A neurotransmitter (a brain chemical) called glutamate helps with memory and learning. But in large amounts, glutamate is toxic to the brain, and it may kill brain cells. Having too much glutamate might be one reason why people with Alzheimer's disease have problems with learning and remembering new things.

Memantine helps to stop glutamate from harming the brain. This can help reduce memory loss and thinking problems.

Why It Is Used

Memantine is used to treat moderate to severe Alzheimer's disease.

The symptoms of Alzheimer's disease get worse over time. Memantine is a drug that may slow the rate at which this happens.

How Well It Works

Memantine does not stop what is happening in the brain to cause personality changes and memory loss from Alzheimer's disease. But memantine may help to slow down the rate at which the disease gets worse.

Some people with moderate to severe Alzheimer's disease try combination therapy, which is taking memantine with a cholinesterase inhibitor (such as Aricept). Cholinesterase inhibitors work differently from the way memantine works. And taking them together might help improve thinking and daily functioning.

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

Callor other emergency services right away if you have:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Call your doctor if you have:

  • Hives.

Common side effects of this medicine include:

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

People who have severe kidney disease may not be able to take memantine. And those who have moderate kidney disease may need to take smaller doses than people who do not have kidney disease.

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.


Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)Click here to view a form.(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerAnne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerMyron F. Weiner, MD - Psychiatry, Neurology
Last RevisedOctober 29, 2012

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

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