Medicines that people take or give to their children and pets in the hope of preventing infectious diseases are called "vaccines", "immunizations", "inoculations", or "prophylactics".

In discussing the idea that in the future, there may be a medicine that prevents Alzheimer's Disease, what word might we use to describe it? I doubt that the listed terms would reasonably apply because they are all used to describe medicines that prevent infectious diseases as opposed to disease caused by the body not working right.

The word vaccine comes from the Latin word for cow because the first vaccines were derived from cows, so that doesn't sound like it has anything to do with AD.

Likewise, immunization suggests that there is something that your body becomes immune to, but in AD, there is no pathogen to be immune to.

All of the cited words are associated with medicines that induce an antibody response, which probably has nothing to do with AD.

If such a medicine were available today to prevent AD and I were going to the doctor's office to receive it, how would I tell you this?

I would say, "I am going to the doctor's office to get __________?

  • The procedure perhaps needs to be named something that is associative with the actual nature of the intervention. Until we know for sure what that will be it seems too early to give it a name.
    – WS2
    Feb 5, 2015 at 21:09
  • 3
    Something that prevents is a "prophylactic".
    – Hot Licks
    Feb 5, 2015 at 22:27
  • Currently, Alzheimer's is not considered a disease that is 'preventable'. Rather, its progression can be slowed down or its symptoms can be ameliorated.
    – Mitch
    Feb 6, 2015 at 15:13
  • @Mitch, you are correct that Alzheimer's disease is not preventable. My question was about what you would call a preventative medicine if one were to become available. Feb 6, 2015 at 17:06
  • RiceFlourCookies - OK. The most idiomatic way of saying what you want is not to fill in that blank with a single word. "I'm going to the doctor to get ... treatment to help stave off/prevent my developing/slow down the advance of possible AD". You presumably don't want to imply that you have it already.
    – Mitch
    Feb 6, 2015 at 18:39

6 Answers 6


I think preventive treatment may fit in the context:

  • a procedure, measure, substance, or program designed to prevent a disease from occurring or a mild disorder from becoming more severe.
  • I am going to the doctor's office to get the preventive treatment for Alzheimer.

There is a current term: anti-Alzheimer (or anti-Alzheimer's) drug/medication. There are also recent studies on drugs for the prevention of Alzheimer's disease.

Below excerpt is from an article titled "Anti-Alzheimer's Drug Shows Promise in Mice Study" on medicinenet.com:

Researchers working with mice have identified a drug they believe holds promise as a preventive treatment for Alzheimer's disease.

In the study, the compound cut levels of amyloid beta -- a protein associated with this degenerative brain disease -- by about half, the researchers said.

Additionally, Alzheimer's disease is often confused with amnesia because amnesia is one of the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. However, there is also the term anti-amnesic that can also define certain drugs for symptomatic treatments.

For example, the below title is from a publication on ncbi.nlm.nih.gov:
Anti-amnesic effect of pseudoginsenoside-F11 in two mouse models of Alzheimer's disease.

  • Related: Anti-Parkinsonian drugs. Jul 4, 2019 at 2:20

Since such a treatment doesn't exist, there is not a word for it yet. Typically, people will invent a vernacular neologism to describe the treatment, usually from a brand name or company. Examples of this are "Depo" for Depo-Provera birth control shot and aspirin (a brand name from Bayer for acetylsalicylic acid.)

People also might create a vague term describing the process. For example, I do not hear many people say "I am going to get immunized against influenza." I do hear "I'm going to get my flu shot." People never say they're getting a "Colonic Lavage" but a "colonic."

So Alzheimer's shot may be a possibility. The generic Vaccine may also be used, regardless of the technical accuracy, since the term means "a shot to prevent sickness" in the minds of the masses.


OP seeks:

1. A single word, or medical term, other than: vaccines; immunizations; inoculations; or prophylactics (adjective): intended to prevent disease.

2. Which describes medicines that, in the future, will prevent disease “caused by the body not working right” [inherited or acquired genetic disease or disorder] as opposed to medicines that prevent infectious pathogenic diseases.

3. If such a medicine were available today.... and I was going to the doctor's office to receive it... I would say, "I am going to the doctor's office to get AAV gene therapy, or simply, gene therapy.

Alzheimer’s is primarily a genetic disease so gene therapies of various kinds are likely to play a prominent role in preventing or inhibiting this illness. Because your question concerns "future" medicines treating AD I am unable to provide a more specific term for that treatment.

Interest in gene therapy grew as further studies of DNA and chromosomes showed that specific genetic abnormalities in one or more genes occurred in successive generations of certain family members who suffered from diseases like intestinal cancer, bipolar disorder, Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, diabetes, and many more. Although the genes may not be the only cause of the disease in all cases, they may make certain individuals more susceptible to developing the disease because of environmental influences, like smoking, pollution, and stress.

see, encyclopedia.com

Recombinant AAV gene therapy for Alzheimer's disease

In this investigation we study the effects of upregulating expression of several of these proteases through administration of recombinant adeno-associated viral vector (rAAV) containing both endogenous and synthetic genes for ECE and NEP on amyloid deposition in amyloid precursor protein (APP) plus presenilin-1 (PS1) transgenic mice. rAAV administration directly into the brain resulted in increased expression of ECE and NEP and a substantial decrease in amyloid pathology.

We were able to significantly increase the area of viral distribution by using novel delivery methods resulting in increased gene expression and distribution. These data support great potential of gene therapy as a method of treatment for neurological diseases. Optimization of gene transfer methods aimed at a particular cell type and brain region in the CNS can be accomplished using AAV serotype specificity and novel delivery techniques leading to successful gene transduction thus providing a promising therapeutic avenue through which to treat AD.

Carty, Nikisha Christine, "Recombinant AAV gene therapy and delivery for Alzheimer's disease" (2009). Graduate Theses and Dissertations.

Recombinant AAV gene therapy for Alzheimer's

  • This would only apply if the treatment were in fact gene therapy.
    – choster
    Feb 5, 2015 at 21:59
  • @choster - could you clarify your point, please.
    – user98990
    Feb 5, 2015 at 22:20
  • The basic question is "In discussing the idea that in the future, there may be a medicine that prevents Alzheimer's Disease, what word might we use to describe it?" The question is not about what may actually be a preventative treatment, but whether there might be a general term for it. Gene therapy isn't a medicine, it isn't exclusive to Alzheimer's, and it is only one type of treatment. Medication, prophylaxis, inoculation, nutrition— none of these things is gene therapy.
    – choster
    Feb 5, 2015 at 22:30
  • @choster - well, that's incorrect. Medicines which "treat" the genes (i.e., gene therapy) indicated in Alzheimer's disease are being developed. Hell, for all I know they may already exist.
    – user98990
    Feb 5, 2015 at 22:41
  • You're not getting my point. Gene therapy is not a generic term. This is like suggesting diesel engine as a term for power plants aboard ships. Yes, it might be accurate for some ships, but on a different ship it might be fuel oil, coal, or a nuclear reactor. In the same way, if we discover that wearing red hats and jumping on one foot prevents Alzheimer's, that doesn't make the wearing and jumping gene therapy.
    – choster
    Feb 5, 2015 at 22:50

Using casual words, for instance the word protection:

[...] 2.a thing, person, or group that protects:

"This vaccine is a protection against disease."

The context of the doctor's office implies prevention or cure, so why dwell on the technical:

I am going to the doctor's office to get my protection against Alzheimer's.

A similar approach, using the shot(s) i.e. the injection; and both could work:

I am going to the doctor's office to get my shot(s)/injection for Alzheimer's.


"I am going to the doctor's office to get a nootropic".

Nootropics , also referred to as smart drugs, memory enhancers, neuro enhancers, cognitive enhancers, and intelligence enhancers, are drugs, supplements, nutraceuticals, and functional foods that improve one or more aspects of mental function, such as working memory, motivation, and attention. The word nootropic was coined in 1972 by the Romanian Dr. Corneliu E. Giurgea, derived from the Greek words νους nous, or "mind", and τρέπειν trepein meaning to bend or turn.

for relation to alzheimer please see: enter link description here

  • I think your last line sums up the problem with Alzheimer's quite nicely.
    – Hot Licks
    Feb 5, 2015 at 23:03

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