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All About Aricept

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Updated June 23, 2014

What It Is:

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.

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.

Effectiveness:

Aricept postpones 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.

Dosage:

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 health care 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.

Precautions:

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.

Manufacturer:

Aricept was developed by Eisai Inc. and approved by the FDA in 1996. It is currently co-promoted by Eisai Inc. and Pfizer Inc.

Generic Available:

Aricept is available in generic form (donepezil HCL).

Sources:

About Aricept®. Eisai Inc. and Pfizer Inc. 2007. http://www.aricept.com/about/index.aspx

Alzheimer's disease medications fact sheet. Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center, National Institute on Aging. January 15, 2008. http://www.nia.nih.gov/Alzheimers/Publications/medicationsfs.htm

FDA-approved treatments for Alzheimer's. Alzheimer's Association. July 2007. http://www.alz.org/national/documents/topicsheet_treatments.pdf

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