memantine, Namenda, Namenda XR

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GENERIC NAME: memantine

BRAND NAME: Namenda, Namenda XR

DRUG CLASS AND MECHANISM: Memantine is an oral medication for treating patients with Alzheimer's disease. Other medications used for Alzheimer's disease affect acetylcholine, one of the neurotransmitter chemicals that nerve cells in the brain use to communicate with one another. These drugs - galantamine (Razadyne - formerly known as Reminyl), donezepil (Aricept), rivastigmine (Exelon), and tacrine (Cognex)-- inhibit the enzyme acetylcholinesterase that destroys acetylcholine and thereby increase the effects of acetylcholine. Memantine's effects are independent of acetylcholine and acetylcholinesterase. Glutamate is the main excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain. It is believed that too much stimulation of nerve cells by glutamate may be responsible for the degeneration of nerves that occurs in some neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's disease. Like other neurotransmitters, glutamate is produced and released by nerve cells in the brain. The released glutamate then travels to nearby nerve cells where it attaches to a receptor on the surface of the cells called the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor. Memantine blocks this receptor and thereby decreases the effects of glutamate. It is thought that by blocking the NMDA receptor and the effects of glutamate, memantine may protect nerve cells from excess stimulation by glutamate. Memantine was approved by the FDA in October 2003.




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