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BMJ Group Medical Reference


This information is for people who have a child with autism. It tells you about memantine, a treatment used for autism. It is based on the best and most up-to-date research.

Does it work?

We don't know. There hasn't been enough research on taking memantine for autism.

What is it?

Memantine is a medicine that has been used for treating people with Alzheimer's disease. The brand name is Ebixa. It can only be prescribed by a specialist.

How can it help?

We don't know if it can help. There hasn't been enough research to say.

How does it work?

Memantine works on the way nerves in your body pass on signals (for example, sending sounds from your ears to your brain). It's sometimes used in Alzheimer's disease. This is because one theory is that the nerves of a person with Alzheimer's are triggered too easily. This confuses their brain, as there are too many signals being sent to it. Memantine works to stop the nerves from being triggered so easily. [106]

Some doctors think children with autism also get too many signals from their senses. But we don't know whether taking memantine can help children with autism. There hasn't been enough research to say.

Can it be harmful?

We don't know what side effects memantine has on children with autism. Adults with Alzheimer's disease get constipation, high blood pressure, and headaches. They may also feel dizzy and drowsy. [107] Less commonly, some people taking memantine develop heart failure, and there have been rare reports of people having seizures.

How good is the research on memantine?

We didn't find any good-quality research studies ( randomised controlled trials) that looked at whether taking memantine helps children with autism.


Alzheimer's disease

People who have Alzheimer's disease slowly lose their memory and ability to think clearly. As the disease gets worse, they get more confused and start acting differently. Several changes happen in the brain that stop it working properly. Small lumps called amyloid plaques grow in the parts of the brain used for memory and thinking. And bundles of twisted threads called 'neurofibrillary tangles' form inside brain cells. These stop brain cells communicating with each other, and they can cause cells to die. Also, in Alzheimer's disease, the brain does not have enough chemical messengers (neurotransmitters), and holes or gaps appear where brain cells have died.


When you're constipated, you have difficulty passing stools (faeces). Your bowel movements may be dry and hard. You may have fewer bowel movements than usual, and it may be a strain when you try to go.

high blood pressure

Your blood pressure is considered to be high when it is above the accepted normal range. The usual limit for normal blood pressure is 140/90. If either the first (systolic) number is above 140 or the lower (diastolic) number is above 90, a person is considered to have high blood pressure. Doctors sometimes call high blood pressure 'hypertension'.

randomised controlled trials

Randomised controlled trials are medical studies designed to test whether a treatment works. Patients are split into groups. One group is given the treatment being tested (for example, an antidepressant drug) while another group (called the comparison or control group) is given an alternative treatment. This could be a different type of drug or a dummy treatment (a placebo). Researchers then compare the effects of the different treatments.

For more terms related to Autism


For references related to Autism click here.
Last Updated: August 29, 2013
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.

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