The treatments currently available on the NHS in the UK for Alzheimer’s may help manage your symptoms for a time, although they do not slow or stop the underlying disease from getting worse.

It’s important to discuss your treatment options with the people involved in your care.

Drug treatments

Doctors often refer to people as having mild, moderate or severe Alzheimer’s disease. This reflects how much symptoms affect the person’s day to day life. Different drug treatments are recommended at different stages of the disease.

If you are prescribed a drug to manage symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, treatment is usually started by your GP or specialist doctor after your diagnosis has been made. Your GP will then monitor any prescribed treatments.

Cholinesterase inhibitors

People with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease could benefit from taking a drug called a cholinesterase inhibitor.

There are three cholinesterase inhibitors to treat mild to moderate Alzheimer’s:

  • donepezil (Aricept)
  • rivastigmine (Exelon)
  • galantamine (Reminyl).

Memantine

Memantine, also known as Ebixa or Axura, is recommended for people with moderate or severe Alzheimer’s disease. It may be used for people with moderate Alzheimer’s if cholinesterase inhibitors don’t help or are not suitable. People with moderate or severe Alzheimer’s disease are sometimes offered combination therapy, where a cholinesterase inhibitor and memantine are given together.

Like cholinesterase inhibitors, memantine is not a cure and does not slow down the progression of the disease. However, it can help with some symptoms like memory, thinking and carrying out daily tasks. Some people taking memantine may not notice any effect at all.

There are complementary therapies available to manage symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. These include cognitive stimulation and talking therapies. You can find out more by clicking the button below, and discuss your options with your doctor or care provider.

In research trials, a newer drug called lecanemab has been found to slow down the worsening of early stage Alzheimer’s disease by a small amount. The UK’s drug regulatory agency (the MHRA) has recently granted a license allowing lecanemab to be prescribed to people in England, Scotland and Wales who are in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease (Northern Ireland is covered by a separate regulator, The EMA, which has not yet reached a decision).

 

Currently, it is only possible for lecanemab to be available privately in England, Scotland and Wales. The drug is undergoing further review by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE, which covers England, Wales and Northern Ireland) and the Scottish Medicines Consortium, who will decide whether to make it available on the NHS.

Have you or a loved one recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease?

If you have been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in the last two years and would like to share your story to help shape our work please get in touch via stories@alzheimersresearchuk.org

Treatments for dementia

Read more about treatments for dementia, including information on treating depression, anxiety and agitation and for information on antipsychotics.

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What is Alzheimer's disease?

Find out more about the symptoms and causes of Alzheimer's disease, and the treatments currently available.

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This information was updated in May 2024 and is due to be reviewed in May 2026. It was written by Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Information Services team with input from lay and expert reviewers. Please get in touch if you’d like a version with references or in a different format.

 

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