Healthy Living

Aricept for Alzheimer's Disease: Side Effects and Usage

Aricept for Alzheimer's Disease: Side Effects and Usage

Generic Name: Donepezil

Brand Names: Aricept, Aricept ODT

What is Aricept?

Aricept (donepezil) is a medication used for the treatment of mild to moderate dementia due to Alzheimer's disease. This medication improves nerve function in the brain and works by preventing the breakdown of acetylcholine, which is a neurotransmitter. Individuals who have dementia often have low levels of this neurotransmitter, which is needed for many processes in the brain, such as thinking, reasoning, and memory. 

However, it is also important to take note that Aricept cannot cure Alzheimer's disease since the condition tends to progress over time even if affected individuals take this medicine. However, this medication may help improve a person's ability to function, memory, and awareness. 

Before Usage

Individuals who are allergic to donepezil should not use Aricept. Speak with your healthcare provider if you have allergies to certain types of medications. To ensure that this medication is safe for you to take, inform your doctor if you have any of the following conditions: 

It is still unknown whether this medication will harm unborn babies. Inform your doctor if you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant before using Aricept. Moreover, it is not yet known whether this medication passes into breast milk and harm a nursing infant. Check with your doctor if you can take this medicine while breastfeeding a baby. 

Usage

Aricept must be exactly taken as prescribed by your healthcare provider. Carefully read and follow the directions written on the prescription. Moreover, avoid taking this medication in smaller or larger amounts or for a longer time than recommended. 

The tablet must be swallowed whole with or without food. Do not break, crush, or chew the tablet. When taking the orally disintegrating tablet of Aricept:

  • Do not open the blister pack until ready to use. 
  • Make sure that your hands are dry when removing the tablet from the package to avoid damaging it. 
  • Place the tablet in your mouth and let it dissolve without chewing.
  • Do not swallow the tablet whole. 
  • As the tablet dissolves, swallow it several times. 
  • Drink one glass of water when the tablet is completely dissolved. 

In cases in which you need dental work or surgery, inform your surgeon in advance that you are taking Aricept. Do not stop taking Aricept unless your doctor specifically says otherwise. 

Keep this medication away from heat and moisture. Store at room temperature. 

Dosage

The following dosages apply to 5 mg, 10 mg, and 23 mg strengths of Aricept:

  • Adult Dose for Alzheimer's DiseaseInitially at 5 mg once a day and orally taken at night before bedtime. 
  • Mild to Moderate Alzheimer's Disease: After the initial daily dose of 5 mg for 4-6 weeks, a maintenance dose is orally taken at 10 mg once daily. 
  • Moderate to Severe Alzheimer's Disease: After the patient has taken the daily 10 mg dose for a minimum of 3 months, a maintenance dose is orally taken at 23 mg once daily.

Side Effects

The following are the most commonly reported side effects of Aricept (donepezil):

These side effects often last for 1-3 weeks and then reduce. Immediately inform your healthcare provider or pharmacist if any of these side effects worsen or persist. Many individuals who use this medication do not experience serious side effects. However, if they do occur, seek immediate help right away. Serious side effects include:

  • Difficulty passing urine
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Passing black stools
  • Coffee ground vomitus
  • Seizures
  • Fainting
  • Severe dizziness
  • Heart rhythm problems (slow, fast, or irregular heartbeat

Although rare, seek immediate medical help if you notice any of the following serious allergic reactions:

  • Skin rash
  • Itching
  • Swelling of the face, throat, or tongue
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Severe dizziness

Drug Interactions

Certain medications, herbal products, vitamins, or supplements may interact with Donepezil oral tablet. Interactions can prevent drugs from working well. Such interactions can be harmful since they can also change how certain drugs work. Your healthcare provider should manage all of your medications to avoid interactions. 

The following can cause drug interactions with donepezil:

Anesthesia Medications

Anesthesia medications and donepezil tend to similarly work, so taking both of these medications at the same time may increase a person's risk of developing side effects. Inform your healthcare provider or dentist that you are taking Aricept before undergoing any type of surgery or procedure. An example of this medication is succinylcholine. 

Antifungal Drugs

Antifungals tend to increase the level of donepezil in the body when they are taken along with donepezil, causing more side effects. One antifungal drug that can cause an interaction with donepezil is ketoconazole. 

Antihistamines

Donepezil and antihistamines tend to oppositely work, and if you take both of these drugs at the same time, they may lose their effectiveness. Patients may also have an increased risk of developing side effects. Antihistamines include:

  • Hydroxyzine
  • Diphenhydramine
  • Dimenhydrinate

Anticonvulsants

When anticonvulsants are taken with donepezil, they tend to reduce the level of donepezil in the body. For this reason, donepezil may not properly work for the treatment of dementia. A few examples are:

  • Phenobarbital
  • Phenytoin
  • Carbamazepine

Medications for Depression

Certain antidepressants tend to oppositely work with donepezil. For this reason, if patients take both of these drugs together, the drugs may become less effective along with having an increased risk of side effects. Antidepressants include:

Heart Medications

Medications for the heart can also increase the level of donepezil in the body when they are taken along with donepezil, causing more side effects. An example heart medication is quinidine. 

Other medications that can cause interactions with donepezil:

  • Medications for an Overactive Bladder - Darifenacin, oxybutynin, tolterodine, or trospium
  • Steroids - Dexamethasone
  • Stomach Medications - Dicyclomine, hyoscyamine, or loperamide
  • Medications for Urinary Retention - Bethanechol
  • Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) - Aspirin, naproxen, or ibuprofen

Key Takeaways

  • Aricept (donepezil) is a medication used for the treatment of mild to moderate dementia due to Alzheimer's disease.
  • This medication improves nerve function in the brain and works by preventing the breakdown of acetylcholine, which is a neurotransmitter.
  • Individuals who have dementia often have low levels of this neurotransmitter, which is needed for many processes in the brain, such as thinking, reasoning, and memory.