What Is Memantine (Namenda)?

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: June 2022. | Last updated: April 2023

Medication may be used to treat cognitive symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, although these drugs are not to be thought of as a cure, per se. One of these drugs is memantine, known as the brand name drug Namenda. This drug is an NMDA receptor antagonist and helps regulate glutamate activity in the brain, which is a chemical that helps with information processing.1

Memantine has been approved to treat moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease. While this drug (and others) help address symptoms of Alzheimer’s, they do not treat the underlying disease or stop the progression of the disease.

Memantine comes in two forms: Namenda (oral tablet) and Namenda XR (extended-release oral tablet).

What is the ingredient in memantine?

Memantine hydrochloride is the active ingredient in Namenda, which is an orally active NMDA receptor antagonist.

How does memantine work?

Glutamate is an amino acid and neurotransmission, or transmission of this chemical in the brain, is necessary for the activity of nerve cells. Excessive activity, though, can cause cell death and the neurodegeneration seen in Alzheimer’s disease.3 Memantine helps regulate glutamate activity and block extrasynaptic transmission of glutamate.3 This drug does not cure Alzheimer's but may help in addressing cognitive symptoms of the disease.

What are the possible side effects of memantine?

Any time a person takes a medication, side effects are a possibility. Many side effects resolve on their own, but for some people, they can be bothersome enough to stop the medication. The most common side effects of memantine can include dizziness, headache, confusion, and constipation.2 Other side effects can include fatigue, hypertension, vomiting, and sleepiness.2

These are not all the possible side effects of memantine. Patients should talk to their doctor about what to expect with treatment with memantine.

If a patient experiences any side effects or any symptoms that are out of the ordinary when taking memantine, tell the doctor immediately.

Things to know about memantine

If a patient is taking any other medications, tell the doctor. Memantine has the potential to interact with other medications or cause adverse effects.

For more information, read the full prescribing information for memantine.

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