Cholinesterase Inhibitors

Cholinesterase inhibitors represent the only class of medications that are FDA-approved to treat dementia, specifically Alzheimer's disease. After tacrine came donepezil (Aricept), rivastigmine (Exelon), and galantamine (Reminyl). Although these medications were developed to treat patients with Alzheimer's disease, the pharmaceutical industry has become aware that the market for mild memory loss is much larger.

Aricept has been shown to improve cognition in patients with multiple sclerosis, and is now being tested in people with mild to moderate memory loss. The other newer cholinergic agents may have similar properties. The underlying rationale is that cholinergic nerve cells decay in all of us during the aging process, and cholinesterase inhibitors can reverse this deficit and thereby improve cognitive performance.

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