The journal Clinical Drug Investigation recently reported that memantine is a cost-effective treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.
In July 2001, Life Extension reported that German doctors were using memantine successfully to treat Alzheimer’s patients, and expressed frustration with the FDA’s slowness in approving the medication.1 In October 2003, the FDA finally approved memantine for the treatment of moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease. Memantine is marketed in the US by Forest Laboratories under the trade name Namenda™.
Memantine is an N-methyl- D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonist that is neuroprotective by blocking glutamate, which can cause overstimulation of the nerves and become toxic to the nervous system. Memantine may benefit individuals with Alzheimer’s disease by improving cognition and overall functioning.
According to the Clinical Drug Investigation study, the costs of treating patients with moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease with memantine are more than offset by the overall savings in patient care.2 A mathematical simulation estimated the cost implications of using memantine relative to no drug therapy over the course of five years in Alzheimer’s patients in Finland.
As expected, the initial cost of memantine therapy was greater than that of no therapy. As the study progressed, however, treatment with memantine reduced the costs of patient care by helping patients remain at home longer, thus delaying their need for care at a hospital or nursing home. Memantine therapy was associated with approximately four extra months of independence, one additional month of residence in the community, and a cost reduction over placebo of $2,050 per patient over five years (based on 2001 costs).
Alzheimer’s is the leading cause of dementia in the elderly, affecting 4 million Americans.
—Elizabeth Wagner, ND