Can the drugs Namenda and Aricept help people who have a TBI? What do you think about using off-label drugs to treat the symptoms of brain injury?
Donepezil (Aricept) and memantine (Namenda) are FDA-approved for the treatment of Alzheimer’s dementia. Aricept works by increasing a chemical in the brain called acetylcholine that is important for memory and learning. Namenda blocks a chemical in the brain called glutamate.
Several studies have evaluated Aricept for memory problems after traumatic brain injury and have found it effective. Namenda has fewer studies but there is also some evidence it may give help with memory disorders after traumatic brain injury. The studies showed, however, that the benefits of both medications were more evident in people with more severe impairment. Neither took away the memory problems but in some people, the drugs improved memory, learning, and behavior. Both medications have side effects that need to be monitored by a medical professional. These medications can have a role as part of a comprehensive treatment program for memory, attention, concentration, mood and behavior.
Dr. Brian Greenwald is medical director of Center for Head Injuries and the associate medical director of JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute. He is a clinical associate professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.