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AChE Inhibitors and NMDA Receptor Antagonists in Advanced Alzheimer's Disease

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OBJECTIVE: The objective of this article is to review the available evidence for duration of treatment with, and considerations for discontinuation of, acetylcholinesterase inhibitors and N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor antagonists in Alzheimer's disease.

DATA SOURCES: Literature searches of clinical trials and meta-analyses were conducted using PubMed with the search terms Alzheimer's, dementia, donepezil, galantamine, memantine, and rivastigmine. References from included trials were also used to find additional citations.

STUDY SELECTION/DATA EXTRACTION: 2,925 articles were initially identified. Twenty-one studies were included that looked at the use of acetylcholinesterase inhibitors and/or memantine in the treatment of moderate-to-severe Alzheimer's dementia.

DATA SYNTHESIS: Several clinical trials have demonstrated small improvements in measures of cognition and activities of daily living with medications used to treat dementia. However, not all patients will benefit from treatment, and the impact of treatment on long-term outcomes, including institutionalization, remains unclear. This paper reviews the available data to support the use of acetylcholinesterase inhibitors and/or memantine in patients with advanced Alzheimer's disease, including those in nursing facilities, and reviews recommendations for consideration of therapy discontinuation.

CONCLUSION: The evidence to support a specific time frame for discontinuation of Alzheimer's disease treatment is limited. It is reasonable to stop a medication if there is no noticeable benefit after the first three months of treatment or once a patient's dementia progresses to a point where there would be no meaningful benefit from continued therapy.
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Document Type: Review Article

Publication date: 01 September 2017

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  • The Consultant Pharmacist® is the official peer-reviewed journal of the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists. It is dedicated exclusively to the medication needs of the elderly in all settings, including adult day care, ambulatory care, assisted living, community, hospice, and nursing facilities. This award-winning journal is a member benefit of ASCP. Individuals who are not members and wish to receive The Consultant Pharmacist® will want to consider joining ASCP.
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