, Volume 21, Issue 7, pp 415-426
Date: 31 Aug 2012

Treatment Strategies in Alzheimer’s Disease with a Focus on Early Pharmacological Interventions

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Complex interactive effects of genetic predisposition, neurochemical changes and disease comorbidity have been elucidated in the genesis of dementia syndromes. Alzheimer’s disease is the most prevalent type of dementia in developed Western countries. In Alzheimer’s disease, pharmacological treatment aims at symptomatic relief, disease modification or disease prevention. Cholinesterase inhibitors are established for the treatment of mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease. In Europe and the US, memantine is approved for the treatment of moderate-to-severe Alzheimer’s disease. To date, there are no drugs with a disease modifying action that have proven efficacy in randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials. In patients not fulfilling the diagnostic criteria for early Alzheimer’s disease, e.g. mild cognitive impairment, the efficacy of several drugs, mainly cholinesterase inhibitors, is currently tested in prospective studies by determining the conversion rate to Alzheimer’s disease. However, prevention and disease-modifying strategies raise ethical questions because interventions are focused on non-diseased elderly at risk, which means that emphasis should be not only on efficacy but also on long-term safety. No disease-modifying strategy can presently be offered to patients; however, given the pace of recent research there is optimism that slowing progression of Alzheimer’s disease will soon be possible.