Aricept (Donepezil) Patient Sheet
Find out about Aricept, a medication for treating symptoms of early Alzheimer's disease.
Patient Information Overview
Generic name: Donepezil hydrochloride
Category: Cholinesterase Inhibitor
Why is this drug prescribed?
Aricept is one of the few drugs that can provide some relief from the symptoms of early Alzheimer's disease. (Cognex, Exelon, and Reminyl are others.) Alzheimer's disease causes physical changes in the brain that disrupt the flow of information and interfere with memory, thinking, and behavior. Aricept can temporarily improve brain function in some Alzheimer's sufferers, although it does not halt the progress of the underlying disease.
Most important fact about this drug
To maintain any improvement, Aricept must be taken regularly. If the drug is stopped, its benefits will soon be lost. Patience is in order when starting the drug. It can take up to 3 weeks for any positive effects to appear.
How should you take this medication?
Aricept should be taken once a day just before bedtime. Be sure it's taken every day. If Aricept is not taken regularly, it won't work. It can be taken with or without food.
--If you miss a dose...
Make it up as soon as you remember. If it is almost time for the next dose, skip the one that was missed and go back to the regular schedule. Never double the dose.
Store at room temperature.
What side effects from Aricept may occur?
Side effects of Aricept cannot be anticipated. If any develop or change in intensity, tell the doctor as soon as possible. Only the doctor can determine if it is safe to continue Aricept.
Aricept side effects are more likely with higher doses. The most common are diarrhea, fatigue, insomnia, loss of appetite, muscle cramps, nausea, and vomiting. When one of these effects occurs, it is usually mild and gets better as treatment continues.
- Other side effects may include: Abnormal dreams, arthritis, bruising, depression, dizziness, fainting, frequent urination, headache, pain, sleepiness, weight loss
Why should this drug not be prescribed?
There are two reasons to avoid Aricept: an allergic reaction to the drug itself, or an allergy to the group of antihistamines that includes Claritin, Allegra, Atarax, Periactin, and Optimine.
Special warnings about this medication
Aricept can aggravate asthma and other breathing problems, and can increase the risk of seizures. It can also slow the heartbeat, cause heartbeat irregularities, and lead to fainting episodes. Contact your doctor if any of these problems occur.
In patients who have had stomach ulcers, and those who take a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug such as Advil, Nuprin, or Aleve, Aricept can make stomach side effects worse. Be cautious when using Aricept and report all side effects to your doctor.
Possible food and drug interactions when taking this medication
Aricept will increase the effects of certain anesthetics. Make sure the doctor is aware of Aricept therapy prior to any surgery.
If Aricept is taken with certain other drugs, the effects of either could be increased, decreased, or altered. It is especially important to check with your doctor before combining Aricept with the following:
Antispasmodic drugs such as Bentyl, Cogentin, and Pro-Banthine
Bethanechol chloride (Urecholine)
Phenobarbital Phenytoin (Dilantin)
Rifampin (Rifadin, Rifamate)
Special information if you are pregnant or breastfeeding
Since it is not intended for women of child-bearing age, Aricept's effects during pregnancy have not been studied, and it is not known whether it appears in breast milk.
The usual starting dose is 5 milligrams once a day at bedtime for at least 4 to 6 weeks. Do not increase the dose during this period unless directed. The doctor may then change the dosage to 10 milligrams once a day if response to the drug warrants it.
The safety and effectiveness of Aricept have not been established in children.
Any medication taken in excess can have serious consequences. If you suspect an overdose, seek medical attention immediately.
- Symptoms of Aricept overdose include: Collapse, convulsions, extreme muscle weakness (possibly ending in death if breathing muscles are affected), low blood pressure, nausea, salivation, slowed heart rate, sweating, vomiting
Last Updated: 15 April 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD