1 Guidance

This guidance has been partially updated by the NICE guideline on dementia. See update information for more information.

1.1 The three acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitors donepezil, galantamine and rivastigmine as monotherapies are recommended as options for managing mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease under all of the conditions specified in 1.4 and in recommendation 1.5.5 of the NICE guideline on dementia.

1.2 Memantine monotherapy is recommended as an option for managing Alzheimer's disease for people with:

  • moderate Alzheimer's disease who are intolerant of or have a contraindication to AChE inhibitors or

  • severe Alzheimer's disease.

    Treatment should be under the conditions specified in recommendation 1.5.5 in the NICE guideline on dementia.

1.3 This recommendation has been updated and replaced by recommendation 1.5.5 in the NICE guideline on dementia.

1.4 If prescribing an AChE inhibitor (donepezil, galantamine or rivastigmine), treatment should normally be started with the drug with the lowest acquisition cost (taking into account required daily dose and the price per dose once shared care has started). However, an alternative AChE inhibitor could be prescribed if it is considered appropriate when taking into account adverse event profile, expectations about adherence, medical comorbidity, possibility of drug interactions and dosing profiles.

1.5 When using assessment scales to determine the severity of Alzheimer's disease, healthcare professionals should take into account any physical, sensory or learning disabilities, or communication difficulties that could affect the results and make any adjustments they consider appropriate. Healthcare professionals should also be mindful of the need to secure equality of access to treatment for patients from different ethnic groups, in particular those from different cultural backgrounds.

1.6 When assessing the severity of Alzheimer's disease and the need for treatment, healthcare professionals should not rely solely on cognition scores in circumstances in which it would be inappropriate to do so. These include:

  • if the cognition score is not, or is not by itself, a clinically appropriate tool for assessing the severity of that patient's dementia because of the patient's learning difficulties or other disabilities (for example, sensory impairments), linguistic or other communication difficulties or level of education or

  • if it is not possible to apply the tool in a language in which the patient is sufficiently fluent for it to be appropriate for assessing the severity of dementia or

  • if there are other similar reasons why using a cognition score, or the score alone, would be inappropriate for assessing the severity of dementia.

    In such cases healthcare professionals should determine the need for initiation or continuation of treatment by using another appropriate method of assessment.

  • National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)