Dementia is a general term that describes a decline in a person’s ability to make decisions, remember, and think. It is not curable, but there are medications and treatments that may help manage dementia symptoms.

Dementia affects cognitive skills, such as memory, to the extent that it reduces a person’s ability to carry out everyday activities. The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease.

Globally, around 47 million people are living with dementia. In the United States, Alzheimer’s disease currently affects over 6 million people.

There is currently no cure for any of the causes of dementia, but there are treatments that may help with slowing the progression of dementia and managing the symptoms.

This article discusses medications that slow dementia progression, medications that treat dementia symptoms, and other treatments for dementia.

Alzheimer’s and dementia resources

To discover more evidence-based information and resources for Alzheimer’s and dementia, visit our dedicated hub.

Was this helpful?
Yellow medication capsules spilling out of a white screw-top container 1Share on Pinterest
Volanthevist/Getty Images

Medications that slow dementia progression have only recently started to emerge. Currently, drugs with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval to treat early Alzheimer’s disease include lecanemab and aducanumab.

Learn more about the early signs of dementia.

The FDA granted both drugs accelerated approval, which means the FDA considers them reasonably likely to provide a clinical benefit for people with early Alzheimer’s disease. However, clinical trials are still ongoing before the drugs receive full FDA approval.

Overall, this means people with early Alzheimer’s disease have more access to potential treatments despite the lack of new therapies for the condition.

Lecanemab and aducanumab are both immunotherapy drugs, meaning they work by affecting the immune system. In both cases, the medication targets amyloid beta, which are small pieces of a larger protein in the brain, to reduce clumps of a protein called amyloid plaque. These plaques are one of the hallmark brain changes in Alzheimer’s disease.

A person should speak with a healthcare professional about the potential side effects of lecanemab and aducanumab.


Lecanemab, which is available under the brand name Leqembi, is an anti-amyloid antibody therapy that is available as an intravenous (IV) therapy for cases of early Alzheimer’s disease where there are high levels of amyloid beta.

Research involving 856 people with Alzheimer’s disease found that lecanemab significantly reduced amyloid plaques when people took a dosage of 10 milligrams per kilogram of body weight every 2 weeks for 79 weeks, in comparison to a placebo.


In 2021, a brand-name form of aducanumab called Aduhelm became the first treatment targeting one of the hallmark brain changes of Alzheimer’s disease to gain FDA approval.

Aducanumab works in a similar way to lecanemab. It is also an anti-amyloid antibody therapy, available in the form of IV infusion, for people with early Alzheimer’s disease.

Research involving 3,482 people with Alzheimer’s disease found that aducanumab demonstrated significant dose-and time-dependent reductions of amyloid beta plaques in comparison to a placebo.

Learn more about medications for Alzheimer’s disease.

Drugs that treat symptoms of dementia do not stop the damage Alzheimer’s disease causes to brain cells and therefore do not prevent cognitive decline. However, they can reduce or stabilize symptoms for some time. They do this by influencing chemicals that transport information within the brain, called neurotransmitters.

There are more pharmaceutical (drug-related) options available for treating dementia symptoms than there are for slowing disease progression, but research into other possible symptom-management medications is ongoing.

Medications that a healthcare professional may recommend include:

  • cholinesterase inhibitors
  • glutamate regulators
  • combined cholinesterase inhibitor and glutamate regulator
  • suvorexant

A person may wish to speak with a healthcare professional about the potential side effects of these medications.

Learn more about medications for memory loss.

Cholinesterase inhibitors

Cholinesterase inhibitors are a group of drugs that prevent the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which supports memory and learning, from breaking down. In doing so, the medication helps maintain more constant acetylcholine levels and enables more effective communication among nerve cells.

Some cholinesterase inhibitors include:

Cholinesterase inhibitors may help with symptoms that relate to:

  • memory
  • judgment
  • language
  • thinking

Glutamate regulators

Glutamate regulators control glutamate activity. Glutamate is a neurotransmitter that helps the brain process information.

The most common glutamate regulator is memantine, which is one of the most recent medications for dementia symptoms to receive approval in the United States.

Glutamate regulators may help improve:

  • memory
  • attention
  • language
  • reasoning
  • ability to perform basic actions

Combined cholinesterase inhibitor and glutamate regulator

Namzaric is a drug for people with moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease. It combines a cholinesterase inhibitor called donepezil and the glutamate regulator memantine.

A 2018 research review suggested that combining the two types of medications is more effective than using only one medication.

However, the researchers noted that while most evidence suggests that combining two medications is superior to using only one, it may complicate treatment plans for people with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers.


Suvorexant is an orexin receptor antagonist. Orexin is a type of neurotransmitter involved in the sleep-wake cycle. Unlike the previous medications, suvorexant does not aim to reduce cognitive symptoms.

Sleep disturbance, including insomnia, is a key symptom of dementia. Suvorexant may effectively help with insomnia symptoms for people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease, as it has received FDA approval for this purpose.

Research suggests that non-pharmaceutical approaches may stabilize cognitive decline and play a preventive role in dementia.

Some non-pharmaceutical treatments include:

Learn more about dementia therapies.

Non-pharmaceutical treatments typically target factors that may worsen dementia, including:

A doctor may recommend using a combination of non-pharmaceutical treatments and medications. Non-pharmaceutical methods are also not limited by the stage of a person’s dementia, as they apply to people experiencing any level of dementia or any stage of Alzheimer’s disease.

A person should speak to a doctor when considering treatment options for dementia. Not everyone will have the same requirements, and a doctor can advise on what may be best according to each individual.

People should also discuss potential side effects before taking any medications and report any new or unexpected side effects they may be experiencing.

Dementia refers to a decline in cognitive function that affects a person’s ability to perform everyday activities.

There is currently no cure for dementia, but there are treatments that can slow its progression and help manage its symptoms. Dementia treatments primarily include medications, but there are also other approaches that may be helpful.

People should speak with a doctor when considering dementia treatments. A healthcare professional can make recommendations on an individual basis.