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Alzheimer's disease health centre

Galantamine

BMJ Group Medical Reference

Introduction

This information is for people who have dementia, or their carers. It tells you about galantamine (Reminyl), a treatment used for dementia. It is based on the best and most up-to-date research.

Does it work?

Yes. If someone with mild or moderate Alzheimer's disease takes galantamine, their memory may get better. And they may be able to think more clearly. But the benefit is likely to be small and we don't know how long it will last.

Galantamine may also help people with vascular dementia.

What is it?

The brand names for galantamine are Reminyl and Reminyl XL. You can take it as a tablet or a liquid. This medicine is for people with mild or moderate Alzheimer's disease. [49] To learn more, see How is Alzheimer's disease treated?

Guidance for doctors in the NHS says there may be some situations where other people with dementia can also be prescribed this drug. [50]

How can it help?

Some people with mild or moderate Alzheimer's disease or vascular dementia do better in memory and thinking tests when they take galantamine. [51] [52] [53]

Galantamine may also help people look after themselves better and have fewer symptoms like being easily upset (agitated), restless, and aggressive. [51]

One summary of all the research into galantamine and similar drugs said that the improvements might be so small that they made little difference to the person taking the drug. [41]The study also said galantamine seemed to work about as well as a similar drug called donepezil. However, another study found that donepezil worked slightly better. [38]

Galantamine seems to help some people with vascular dementia with remembering, but the difference is small, and studies found that it didn't really improve people's lives. [54] [55] [56] [56]

How does it work?

Galantamine is one of a group of drugs called cholinesterase inhibitors. These drugs increase the amount of a chemical called acetylcholine in the brain. Acetylcholine is an important chemical messenger ( neurotransmitter) in the parts of the brain that control memory, thinking, and decision making. People with Alzheimer's disease and other dementias have less acetylcholine than other people. This may explain why people with dementia get confused and become forgetful.

When brain cells need to communicate with other brain cells, messages are carried by acetylcholine and other neurotransmitters. When a message has been delivered, the acetylcholine is no longer needed and is destroyed by enzymes. Galantamine stops these enzymes working. So, the acetylcholine isn't destroyed and keeps helping signals travel through the brain. This might improve memory and thinking.

Last Updated: August 15, 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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