Meds and you

Updated 11 February 2013

Donepezil

Donepezil is prescribed to treat mild to moderate dementia.

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Donepezil is the active ingredient of Aricept.

General information

Donepezil is prescribed to treat mild to moderate dementia - a progressive condition in which a person loses the ability to think, remember, learn, make decisions and solve problems - in Alzheimer's disease, and to slow the deterioration in the condition of patients.

The medication may slow the rate of cognitive - conscious, intellectual activity - and non-cognitive deterioration in an estimated 40% of patients.

For donepezil to be effective, it must be taken regularly. It is advised that patients should be assessed regularly to determine if treatment should be continued.

A so called 'drug-holiday' - a period during which treatment with the drug is stopped - is sometimes recommended to evaluate whether a patient is indeed responding to donepezil. Should the condition of an otherwise well-controlled donepezil-patient deteriorate rapidly during a 6-week stoppage of the drug, continued treatment with donepezil is advised.

How does donepezil work?

Donepezil blocks an enzyme in the brain responsible for the breakdown of the chemical messenger acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is largely responsible for cognitive function, and a rise in acetylcholine levels often assists demented patients.

Fast facts

Drug schedule: schedule 5

Available as: this medication is available as tablets

What does it do? Donepezil improves intellectual activity in patients with Alzheimer's disease

Overdose risk: medium

Dependence risk: low

Is donepezil available as a generic ? no

Is donepezil available on prescription only? yes

User information

Onset of effect : it may take a couple of months for the full effect of donepezil to be seen

Duration of action: up to 48 hours

Stopping this medicine: use donepezil as prescribed by your doctor, and do not discontinue treatment before speaking to your doctor - suddenly stopping the drug may cause symptoms to recur

Prolonged use: the drug should be continued for as long as a benefit can be seen; it is advised that patients should be assessed regularly to determine if treatment should be continued.

Special precautions

Consult your doctor before using this drug if:

  • you have or had a peptic ulcer
  • you have asthma or any other respiratory disease
  • you have heart disease
  • you are taking any other medication

Pregnancy: avoid. It is unknown how this medication may affect your baby. Consult your doctor before using this drug, or if you are planning to fall pregnant.

Breastfeeding: avoid. It is unknown how this medication may affect your baby. Consult your doctor before use.

Porphyria: avoid. It is unknown how this medication may affect your condition. Consult your doctor before use.

Infants and children: This medication is not intended for use in children.

The elderly: No special precautions need to be taken.

Driving and hazardous work: caution is advised as use of this medication may lead to dizziness, light-headedness and/or sedation. Avoid such activities until you know how this medication affects you.

Alcohol: avoid concomitant use of alcohol with this medication as the effect of donepezil may be reduced.

Possible side effects

Side effect

Frequency

Consult your doctor

Common

Rare

Only if severe

In all cases

nausea/ vomiting

x

x

diarrhoea

x

x

fatigue

x

x

muscle cramps

x

x

headache

x

x

dizziness

x

x

weight loss

x

x

palpitations

x

x

seizures

x

x

difficulty urinating

x

x

Interactions

drug interactions

phenytoin

risk of reduced donepezil effect

carbamazepine

risk of reduced donepezil effect

alcohol

risk of reduced donepezil effect

dexamethasone

risk of reduced donepezil effect

rifampicin

risk of reduced donepezil effect

phenobarbital

risk of reduced donepezil effect

suxamethonium

potentiated muscle relaxation during anaesthesia

Disease interactions

Consult your doctor before using this drug if you have or had a peptic ulcer, asthma or any other respiratory disease, or if you have heart disease.

Overdose action

A small overdose is no cause for concern. In case of intentional large overdose, seek emergency medical attention.

Recommended dosage

Adults: 5 - 10mg once daily

This material is not intended to substitute medical advice, but is for informational purposes only. Please consult a physician for specific treatment and recommendations.

 

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