Aricept (Donepezil) Medication for Treating Alzheimer's

One of the most widely used drugs to treat the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. Aricept is FDA-approved for mild, moderate, and severe stages of the disease.

Donepezil molecule illustration
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How It Works

Aricept is a cholinesterase inhibitor that prevents the breakdown of acetylcholine in the brain. Acetylcholine plays a key role in memory and learning; higher levels in the brain help nerve cells communicate more efficiently.


Some research has found that Aricept can postpone the worsening of Alzheimer's symptoms for 6 to 12 months in about half of the people who take it. For many, the improvement is minimal, yet worthwhile. Anecdotal evidence suggests that a small percentage of people may benefit more dramatically from this drug.


Aricept is available in tablet form or an orally disintegrating tablet form and is commonly started at 5 mg a day. If it's well tolerated after 4 to 6 weeks, the dosage may be increased to 10 mg a day. Your healthcare professional will determine the best dosage for you or your loved one.

Side Effects

Although generally well-tolerated, the most common side effects are nausea, diarrhea, increased frequency of bowel movements, vomiting, bruising, sleep disturbance, muscle cramps, loss of appetite, fatigue, and fainting.

Potential Interactions

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin or ibuprofen, should be used with caution while taking Aricept, due to the increased risk of stomach ulcers.


Be sure to tell your doctor about any history or current problems with stomach ulcers, including any current medications being taken for a stomach condition. Also, the drug can slow the heart rate, a condition known as bradycardia.


Aricept was developed by Eisai Inc. and approved by the FDA in 1996. It is currently distributed by Eisai Inc. and marketed by Pfizer Inc.

Generic Available

Aricept is available in generic form (donepezil HCL).

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Article Sources
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  • Alzheimer's disease medications fact sheet. Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center, National Institute on Aging. January 15, 2008.

  • FDA-approved treatments for Alzheimer's. Alzheimer's Association. July 2007.

  • Molino I, Colucci L, Fasanaro AM, Traini E, Amenta F. Efficacy of memantine, donepezil, or their association in moderate-severe Alzheimer's disease: a review of clinical trials. ScientificWorldJournal. 2013;2013:925702.