Exelon and Alzheimer's: Drug Treatments - Rivastiqmin
Exelon (generic name rivastigmin) has been used to treat Alzheimer’s Disease since the late 1990s. It’s not a cure and it only treats the cognitive symptoms of this form of dementia.
It’s only intended for people in the mild to moderately severe stages of the disease and has been shown to be effective in many people who have been prescribed it.
What is the Drug Exelon, and how does it treat Alzheimers?
Exelon belongs to a group of drugs called acetycholinesterase inhibitors. It is believed that the chemical acetylcholine, which transmits messages between brain cells in the area responsible for memory and acquiring new information, is reduced in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s.
The drug helps prevent the breakdown of this important chemical, therefore helping to delay the brain cells being killed off.
It is only available on prescription and does have side effects including nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. These often settle down in time.
For many who take it there won’t be a dramatic improvement but studies have shown that up to 30% of people who have been prescribed the drug have demonstrated improvements in memory, understanding and daily living skills after just six months.
Novartis, the drug company which manufactures Exelon, claims that people who take it for more than a year, on average function better than those who don’t. However, as with any drug there are people who haven’t benefited at all. And there are many detractors, including some in the medical profession, who believe that Exelon is just not worth it the money it costs.
In February 2005 the UK National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE ), which produces guidelines for drug use, said that Exelon, along with other drugs of its type, was not a cost effective treatment for Alzheimer’s and should not be made available free of charge on the National Health Service. It argued that very few people benefited enough from the drug to warrant the NHS dishing it out free. Naturally this caused a furore among carers of people with Alzheimer’s and mental health charities which claimed that there were huge benefits in taking the drug for many sufferers. In response to NICE’s argument, the pro-Exelon lobby claimed that the drug was excellent value for money (costing the same per day as an average supermarket sandwich).
The cost of Exelon isn’t an issue in other countries such as America and in some parts of Europe where health insurance determines what medication a person does or doesn’t receive. Depending on the level of health insurance Exelon is still widely available for people with Alzheimer’s Disease in many developed countries. Certainly the huge American insurers such as Medicare and Medicaid have no plans to stop funding it. And since the USA’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has licensed Exelon as a useful drug to help control Alzheimer’s symptoms it looks as though American sufferers will continue to benefit from it.