Namenda and Aricept: Not a Cure for Autism, but a Start

04 Feb

Doctors, parents, and researchers always seem to be looking for “it”: The cure to autism. While science seems to be years away from such a discovery, scientists have tapped into drugs intended to treat Alzheimer’s disease as a possible catalyst for brain activity in individuals with autism. Their out-of-the-box thinking has been rewarded with some positive, though tentative, results.

Dr. Randall Kavalier, a psychiatrist in private practice in West Des Moines, Iowa, prescribes Namenda to children who have autism or who suffer from brain injuries. Namenda, the brand name of memantine, is the first in a class of Alzheimer’s disease medications that blocks NMDA glutamate receptors. Dr. Kavalier states that Namenda clears up the interference among signals to nerves in the brain. Dr. Kavalier said that while elderly brains have long finished developing, children’s brains are still being molded. He said that, in many cases, after children swallow a few pills, “They light up. I mean, they turn on.”

Dr. Kavalier is not the first to experiment with memantine. Last summer, researchers at The Ohio State University’s Nisonger Center also used a drug normally prescribed for Alzheimer’s patients to determine if it will improve the communication skills of children with autism with positive results.

In 2001, Michael Chez, M.D., a child neurologist and assistant professor of neurology at Rush Medical School in Chicago published a study about the positive effects of Aricept (donepezil) on the language production in mild to moderately affected children with autism.

Have you tried this medication? Would you try it?


Posted by on February 4, 2011 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , , , , ,

25 responses to “Namenda and Aricept: Not a Cure for Autism, but a Start

  1. Sarah K.

    February 21, 2011 at 10:56 AM

    There was a follow up story last Thursday on this topic which you can find on WHO-TV . Hope it provides you some more helpful information.

    • jholverstott

      February 22, 2011 at 1:36 AM

      Thanks so much for sharing! I will check it out!

  2. Peter Cole

    May 9, 2011 at 10:14 PM

    Yep, I have been following the study, because we have been giving our 10/11 year old boy a low dose of Memantine for nearly a year.
    It seems to be at least partly responsible for a fundamental improvement, but we are concerned about side-effects, which the results of this study could assist with.
    But – still no word from them on the results, to quote King Julian in Madagascar 1: “How long is this going to take?”
    Do you have any suggestions as to how to get some answers? We have basically discontinued this medication, which might have been doing some real good here, for want of some good information.

    Do you think a contact with Dr Kavalier would be fruitful or would his response be in keeping with his name?

  3. pioneer1960

    August 3, 2011 at 9:39 AM

    Wanted to link to your blog. Will you let me? This is huge!

    • jholverstott

      August 7, 2011 at 10:01 AM

      Sure, Pioneer. Thanks for the note.

  4. Patty

    February 15, 2012 at 6:06 PM

    Thanks for this post. Doing research on Namenda right now for my 14 year old. It’s not something I wanted to give him. He has outbursts of aggression because he doesn’t understand things. His coping skills come out as anger. I’ve heard mixed bag from local parents on this subject yet I have all but 1 medical provider telling me to give it a try. I’m not a big fan of pharma meds, yet today I found myself feeling like I didn’t have any other choice but to try it. We will see.

    • Peter Cole

      February 23, 2012 at 5:10 AM

      Patty – I agree, no-one wants to use meds if there is another solution. I like to justify our giving our son memantine on the basis that it is a supplement, like diabetics take insulin-boosting meds daily.
      And I think Kavalier has it right when he describes the action of memantine as:
      “Dr. Kavalier states that Namenda clears up the interference among signals to nerves in the brain.”
      HOWEVER ! Although I believe it helps with improved clarity of thought, making better neural connections, that by itself is not the whole story (in my opinion). You will need to match your son’s improved clarity of thought with additional training, so the end result is he can better-cope with some challenges that he has not been able to handle in the past.
      Which means select a simple thing that he doesn’t understand currently, and after a few weeks on the meds see if he can now understand. If he can, it will give him renewed hope of self-improvement, and the all-important thing, give him confidence! Those two benefits should reduce his anger (As well as demonstrating to you and him that memantine works for him. Not everyone benefits I understand, but that may be because there is more to be done than simply administering a drug)
      So I am saying that you also need to accompany the meds with extra support because the med by itself is only partly the answer.

    • Melinda

      March 8, 2012 at 1:45 PM

      Your 14 year old sounds like my 8 year old. He had the same outbursts because he didn’t understand. On Namenda, I have seen dramatic improvement. I highly recommend you at least give it a try. I was like you, didn’t feel I had much choice but truly, it has helped alot. If you don’t like it later, or want to discontinue, then do it then. If you don’t try, you may always wonder why.
      It helps all the neurons in his brain work together to understand. School work and behaviors have improved as well. Good luck.

      • Norma Ames

        July 10, 2012 at 4:32 PM

        I wondered if you could tell me the dose your son takes. My son is 7 and was on Namenda for a year at a dose of 10 mg two times a day. We did see improvements but not drastic ones. I know a lot of people have said their children are on much higher doses. We took my son off Namenda just about 6 weeks ago because we found he had low motility in his throat (poor swallowing) which could or could not be caused by the Namenda. We are going to have a follow-up swallow study in a few weeks to see if his swallowing gets better or not. If there is not improvement in his swallowing, we will attribute that problem to something other than Namenda & he will go back on Namenda. If his swallowing gets better, then we don’t know what we will do yet.

        So, I just wondered if anyone would be willing to list the doses their kids take & I also wondered if anyone else noticed problems with swallowing or with bowel movements after starting Namenda. Thanks

    • Ken

      July 16, 2012 at 1:46 PM

      we have a 14 year old boy resently diagnosed with PDD. Same as what you’re describing. Dr prescibed Namenda and in 3 days the world changed. I don’t know about your situation but ours was unbelievable!

  5. Patty

    April 16, 2012 at 5:21 PM

    It has been almost 2 months now since we tried Namenda with my 14 yr old. I AM glad I did try it. I have seen improvements in my son. Engaging with me in school work better, socializing with family, special needs friends and even same age peers. The behaviors are still an issue but the occurances of the major aggressions have decreased in frequency. We’ve had to add another med for the aggression and testing it out now. Thanks all for your input!

    • JulieK

      November 3, 2012 at 6:02 AM

      Patty, did you have instant results or was there a trial period? Our son has been on for 3 days and started becoming aggressive again. Not too happy, hope it gets better before it gets worse. Thanks, Julie

  6. Peter Cole

    April 18, 2012 at 8:06 PM

    Hi Patty,
    Good to have things working, isn’t it! Congrats on the improvements. I think Melinda has it right when she diagnoses the reason for aggression: “because he doesn’t understand”. Which explains why his aggression is less, since he understands more.
    My irritation still persists at the “experts” lack of results with their controlled tests for side effects of Memantine.
    Perhaps we can conduct a little survey of our own here over time ..!
    We have presently discontinued Memantine for our son this Term (which started last week, in Australia), and will compare his behaviour and happiness with last term when he was on the stuff.
    You may be interested in the results, since later on you might like to try your sons again without Memantine. If so, I will report what differences if any we notice.

  7. Ann

    August 26, 2012 at 10:24 PM

    I have 2 sons on the spectrum. One has Asperger’s and has been on Prozac for anxiety for about 1 and a half years. It worked for a while and his anxiety has really increased with school starting again. He will be in the 5th grade. It was increased and 5 days later he started talking about how it would be better if he were dead so he could get away from his brother bothering him We backed way off the Prozac. My 4th grader has severe receptive and expressive language problems. Some people are posting that memantine helped with understanding things better so it helped with aggression. Does that mean it helps your children learn better because receptive language has improved. I would do anything to help him learn better. We know he is smart he just can’t “get” stuff. I would try memantine for both my sons if that is the case.

  8. Melinda

    September 20, 2012 at 9:30 AM

    In addition to Namenda, my 8 year old also attended social groups. It really seemed to help too. Unfortunately, they were very expensive so I had to discontinue after 3 months. If I get a chance to enroll again, I will do it right away. While at the groups, I got a chance to visit with other parents in my shoes. That was helpful to me as well. There is no cure to this, but any assistance we can get is helpful.

  9. Amin Abbasi

    October 16, 2012 at 4:44 PM

    I have prescribed donepezil & memantine hcl both for persons with Pervasive Developmental Disorders These are so effective for most of them .Remember that thay must be take about 10 to 12 months with omega 3 and vitamins( B complex, E) & zinc.
    Good luck
    Amin Abbasi
    Medical Speech Language Pathologist

  10. JulieK

    November 3, 2012 at 5:58 AM

    We just started Namenda along with Intuniv. Our son is almost 12 yrs old and was becoming very, very aggressive. On the 1mg Intuniv, he was nearly back to his old happy self, we increased to 2mg for two days, then started Namenda. He is becoming aggressive again….ugh! He has only been taking Namenda for three days and we have a follow-up appointment on Monday. We are hoping that his aggressive outbursts will cease, soon!

  11. Debra k

    November 4, 2012 at 10:10 PM

    What would dosage amounts be for a 13 yr old girl. In the same shoes as some of the boys! Wow been looking for something like this to try………… we are drug free. Willing to try something like this !

  12. dahlia

    January 9, 2013 at 10:30 AM

    I will speak to my son’s neuropsych about this at his next appointment! He is 14; we do multiple biomedical, behavioral, and educational interventions and he has made a lot of progress, but we’re still looking for that “one” last step that could push him over the threshold.

  13. Melissa

    January 23, 2013 at 5:22 PM

    I have a 10 year old with autism. I recently heard about Namenda and want to try it with my son. I can not find a doctor to prescribe it. They are calling it off-label use and nit recommended for children. What kind of doctor (specialty) prescribed it to your children?

  14. Jimyo

    March 4, 2013 at 2:50 PM

    Today I visited a doc, and got Aricept for my 4 and half years old daughter. The doc I visited didn’t know about namenda, but he said he wrote a thesis about aricept and assured it’s quite safe without much side efect. Then I got a letter from my mento that it’s not been proved yet… My daughter took aricept last night, and now I’m confused… hope I can find a right way for my daughter. I’ve got sick of feeling guilty that I’m doing everything wrong…

  15. JM

    March 7, 2013 at 11:13 AM

    It’s been 5 days since my 4 and half years old daughter on aricept. She seemed a bit sleepy for the first coupld of days, but the thing is she sleeps through the night since then; it’s amazing coz she woke up in the middle of the night at least 5 nights a week. I wanted to try Namenda because I heard 7 people died while they were testing aricept. But I couldn’t find a doctor for that… Anyway hope it will work… I will come back later to tell the result. wish me good luck.

  16. Kendra

    May 3, 2013 at 3:32 PM

    Today was the first day of my 9 yr old son to take namenda along with his usual ritalin and clonidine. He was very violent in school which is NOT him. Dr Kavalier’s office said it isnt the med nad that he just wants to get out of school, but he would never do that. He was walking funny and even his classmates were saying something isnt right about him. Do I keep giving it to him, is it an adjustment period? Need advice.

    • Jimyo

      September 30, 2014 at 9:39 AM

      Hi there.

      My daughter has been on Aricept for a year and half, and she has made much progress; of coz not only aricept but also for the stem cell treatment.

      Anyhow I am thinking of trying namenda instead of aricept, so I wonder…. if you son did fine with namenda after this. was it just kinda adjustment period? or did you give it up?

      Plz reply.

      Thanks a lot.

  17. JennyVR

    May 29, 2014 at 4:20 PM

    My son takes Namenda via Dr. Kavalier. It has helped him so much! We also see Dr. Hays for therapy at Dr. Kavalier’s office. Both doctors are great!
    My son has high functioning autism. However we have still seen great improvements. He went from attending summer school in 2nd grade, to now. He is a 6th grader taking 7th grade math. He has friends!! FRIENDS!!!! They hang out every friday after school.
    Please if you have an autism kid, check it out. I know you will see a different in their life the 1st month you use Namenda!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: