Alzheimer's Disease Current Treatments and Potential New Agents

Kristina Nikl, PharmD; Shana Castillo, PharmD, MBA, RPh; Eric Hoie, PharmD, RPh; Karen K. O'Brien, BS Pharm, PharmD, RPh


US Pharmacist. 2019;44(1):20-23. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Alzheimer's disease (AD) is becoming more prevalent worldwide. Four medications (donepezil, rivastigmine, galantamine, and memantine) are approved to treat AD symptoms. Despite extensive research over the past hundred years, little is known about what causes AD or how to effectively treat it. However, progress is being made in elucidating the complex pathophysiology that leads to the development of plaques and tangles, two predominant contributing factors in AD. This knowledge has fueled research aimed at developing disease-modifying agents to halt disease progression. Current research focuses on agents that target secretase enzymes to prevent plaque accumulation. Although the research appears promising, these agents have produced few successful results. The pharmacist can ensure that patients take their AD medications properly, communicate with patients and caregivers about treatment expectations, and inform them about emerging therapies.


Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most prevalent neurodegenerative disorder in the world. Approximately 5.5 million people in the United States and 47 million people worldwide are currently affected.[1,2] Thirteen percent of people older than age 65 years and 45% of those older than age 85 years have AD, and the prevalence is increasing.[3] It is expected that by 2050, one new case of AD will develop every 33 seconds, amounting to nearly a million new cases per year.[4] Owing to the lack of effective treatment options, the cost of care for AD patients in the U.S.—estimated at more than $183 billion annually—is on the rise, accompanied by a corresponding increase in burden on patients' loved ones.[2] Although AD has been studied for more than a hundred years, knowledge and understanding of this complex condition are far from complete. Currently, extensive research is being conducted to determine what causes AD and to discover effective treatments.