** This review is awaiting update with a new protocol. The methods used for the review were acceptable when the review was published but do not meet contemporary standards, and the review is also considerably out of date. Therefore, readers should note that the review may not represent a reliable basis for decision making. **
Since the introduction of the first cholinesterase inhibitor (ChEI) in 1997, most clinicians and probably most patients would consider the cholinergic drugs, donepezil, galantamine and rivastigmine, to be the first line pharmacotherapy for mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease.
The drugs have slightly different pharmacological properties, but they all work by inhibiting the breakdown of acetylcholine, an important neurotransmitter associated with memory, by blocking the enzyme acetylcholinesterase. The most that these drugs could achieve is to modify the clinical manifestations of Alzheimer's disease. Cochrane reviews of each ChEI for Alzheimer's disease have been completed.