memantine, Namenda, Namenda XR

  • Pharmacy Author:
    Omudhome Ogbru, PharmD

    Dr. Ogbru received his Doctorate in Pharmacy from the University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy in 1995. He completed a Pharmacy Practice Residency at the University of Arizona/University Medical Center in 1996. He was a Professor of Pharmacy Practice and a Regional Clerkship Coordinator for the University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy from 1996-99.

  • Medical and Pharmacy Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

What is memantine, and how does it work (mechanism of action)?

  • 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.

What brand names are available for memantine?

Namenda, Namenda XR

Is memantine available as a generic drug?

GENERIC AVAILABLE: Yes.

Do I need a prescription for memantine?

Yes.

What are the uses for memantine?

Memantine is used for the treatment of moderate to severe dementia associated with Alzheimer's. Dementia can be categorized into three levels of severity: mild in which patients are alert and sociable, but forgetfulness begins to interfere with daily living, moderate which often is the longest stage of the disease with deterioration of intellect, logic, behavior, and function, and severe, in which there is loss of long-term memory and language skills. Patients with severe Alzheimer's may require 24-hour care and can no longer complete basic self-care tasks including washing, eating, and using the bathroom.

What are the side effects of memantine?

The most common side effects of memantine are:

Memantine may cause a serious skin reaction called Stevens-Johnson syndrome.

Other potential serious side effects include:

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/20/2016

Quick GuideDementia, Alzheimer's Disease, and Aging Brains

Dementia, Alzheimer's Disease, and Aging Brains
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