Drugs may be part of the treatment for Alzheimer's disease. Drug treatment can be divided into two categories: treatment to improve cognitive function and treatment to improve abnormal behaviors. There are at least 16 new drugs undergoing evaluation that may improve cognitive function. Some of these drugs are intended to augment acetylcholine neurotransmitter function. Others are nootropics that affect neuron metabolism with little effect elsewhere. A third major category is drugs that affect brain vasculature. A miscellaneous group includes drugs aimed at modifying other defects found in Alzheimer's disease. Drugs to affect behavior have been available for some time. These include neuroleptics, anxiolytics, and antirage drugs. Use of all these drugs has been controversial. Recent federal legislation and guidelines affect their use in nursing homes. Specific indications for neuroleptics are psychotic features and agitation. Dosage for patients with dementia is different than for other psychotic patients. There is no consensus on the use of other psychoactive medications.
(Arch Intern Med. 1991;151:245-249)