Memantine for Alzheimer's Disease

Search Knowledgebase

Topic Contents

Memantine for Alzheimer's Disease


Generic NameBrand Name
memantine hydrochlorideEbixa

How It Works

Memantine is the first in one class of medicines developed to treat Alzheimer's disease. It works in a completely different way compared to other Alzheimer's disease medicines.

It is possible that symptoms of Alzheimer's disease may be related to an imbalance of brain chemicals—specifically glutamate—that affect learning and memory. Memantine blocks the activity of glutamate and improves moderate to severe symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.1

Why It Is Used

Memantine is the first medicine available that slows the late stages of Alzheimer's disease. It effectively reduces moderate to severe symptoms of memory loss and thinking problems, as opposed to other medicines that improve mild to moderate symptoms.2

How Well It Works

Memantine is the only medicine available to treat more severe thinking and memory symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. But no medicine has yet been developed that can stop the damaging changes in the brain that cause personality changes and memory loss from Alzheimer's disease.

Patients with moderate to severe Alzheimer's disease who were taking cholinesterase inhibitors experienced improvement in their thinking and daily functioning when they added memantine (Ebixa) to their treatment.3

Side Effects

Common mild side effects include:

  • Dizziness.
  • Confusion.
  • Headache.
  • Constipation.

People who have severe kidney disease may not be able to take memantine and those with moderate kidney disease may need to take smaller doses.

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

What To Think About

If current medicines have not helped, you may want to talk with the person's doctor about trying memantine. Other medicines may reduce mild to moderate symptoms, but memantine has been shown to reduce moderate to severe symptoms of thinking and memory problems from Alzheimer's disease.

Memantine, like other Alzheimer's disease medicines, will not stop the progression of the disease.

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



  1. Memantine for Alzheimer's disease (2003). Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics, 45(W1165A): 73–74.
  2. McShane R, et al. (2006). Memantine for dementia. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (2). Oxford: Update Software.
  3. Tariot PN, et al. (2004). Memantine treatment in patients with moderate to severe Alzheimer's disease already receiving donepezil. JAMA, 291(3): 317–324.


By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Andrew Swan, MD, CCFP, FCFP - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Peter J. Whitehouse, MD - Neurology
Last Revised January 11, 2011

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.