Current status and new developments with galantamine in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease.

Research paper by P P Tariot

Indexed on: 05 Feb '02Published on: 05 Feb '02Published in: Expert opinion on pharmacotherapy


Galantamine is a newly available cholinergic drug that offsets reductions in central cholinergic neurotransmission in Alzheimer's disease (AD) by specifically and reversibly inhibiting acetylcholinesterase (AChE) and by allosterically modulating nicotinic cholinergic receptors. The clinical impact of this latter mechanism of action has not been fully elucidated. Galantamine has favourable pharmacokinetic features including linear elimination kinetics, a relatively short half-life and high oral bioavailability. The efficacy of galantamine has been studied in an extensive clinical development program. During randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials of up to 6 months' duration, galantamine 16 and 24 mg/day consistently produced a broad spectrum of beneficial effects on cognitive and non-cognitive AD symptoms. Patients' cognition, global function and abilities to perform both instrumental and basic activities of daily living were maintained, the emergence of behavioural symptoms was postponed and apparent reductions in caregiver burden were seen. In long-term studies (> or = 12 months), galantamine maintained cognitive and functional abilities at or near baseline levels for at least 12 months. Again, these benefits were associated with decreases in caregiver burden. The incidence of adverse events, which are typically mild or moderate in severity, is generally low with galantamine. Cholinergically mediated adverse events affecting mainly the gastrointestinal system can be minimised using the recommended slow dose-escalation regimen. Galantamine may therefore help reduce the overall burden and cost involved in caring for AD patients. Being approved for the treatment of mild-to-moderately severe AD in both the US and in Europe, with trials of its efficacy in other dementia types already yielding positive results, galantamine ranks as a first-line therapy for dementia.