Donepezil (Aricept)

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Donepezil helps ease the symptoms of dementia, such as memory loss.

Take the tablet at bedtime.

Your doctor will want to check on your progress, so remember to keep your clinic and surgery appointments.

Type of medicineAnti-dementia medicine (an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor)
Used forDementia associated with Alzheimer's disease
Also calledAricept®
Available asTablets, and orodispersible tablets (these melt in the mouth)

Donepezil is used to ease the symptoms of dementia associated with Alzheimer's disease, such as memory loss.

Donepezil cannot cure dementia, but it can slow down the progression of the symptoms in some people. It works by increasing the level of a natural chemical called acetylcholine. This is a chemical which allows nerve cells in the brain to communicate with each other, and it is known that people with dementia have low levels of it.

Donepezil will be prescribed by a doctor who is a specialist. If you are a caregiver, please read this leaflet on behalf of the person who is receiving donepezil.

Some medicines are not suitable for people with certain conditions, and sometimes a medicine may only be used if extra care is taken. For these reasons, before you start taking donepezil it is important that your doctor or pharmacist knows:

  • If you have any problems with the way your liver works.
  • If you have a heart condition, such as an irregular heartbeat.
  • If you have any problems with your breathing, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
  • If you have any problems passing urine.
  • If you have ever had a gastric (stomach) ulcer.
  • If you have ever had convulsions (fits).
  • If you are taking or using any other medicines. This includes any medicines you are taking which are available to buy without a prescription, such as herbal and complementary medicines.
  • If you have ever had an allergic reaction to a medicine.
  • Before you start this treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside your pack. The leaflet will give you more information about donepezil and a full list of side-effects which you may experience from it.
  • Your caregiver will help you take your tablets exactly as your doctor has told you. It is usual to be prescribed one 5 mg tablet to take each day, although a higher-strength tablet may be prescribed for you after the first month. Try to take your doses at the same time each day, as this will help you to remember to take them. Unless you have been told otherwise, take your dose just before bedtime. It can be taken with or without food.
  • If you have been given the tablets that melt in the mouth (such as a brand of tablet called Aricept Evess®), place the tablet on your tongue and allow it to disintegrate in your mouth before you swallow. You may find it helps to have a drink of water afterwards.
  • If you forget to take a dose, do not worry, just take your dose on the following day at the usual time. Do not take two doses together to make up for a forgotten dose. If you forget to take donepezil for more than one week, talk with your doctor before starting to take it again, as you may need to re-start your treatment on a lower dose.
  • Your doctor will want to check your progress every few weeks to make sure the dose is right for you and that you are getting benefit from this treatment. Try to keep these regular doctor's appointments.
  • If you are having an operation or dental treatment, tell the person carrying out the treatment that you are taking donepezil. This is because donepezil may affect the amount of any anaesthetic you may need.
  • If you buy any medicines, always check with a pharmacist that they are safe to take with your other medicines. Some medicines can interfere with the way donepezil works.

Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. These usually improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following side-effects continue or become troublesome.

Common donepezil side-effectsWhat can I do if I experience this?
Feeling or being sick, loss of appetite, abdominal discomfortStick to simple foods - avoid rich or spicy meals
DiarrhoeaDrink plenty of water to replace any lost fluids
Feeling dizzy, faint, or tiredBe especially carefully if you are using any tools or machines
HeadacheAsk your pharmacist to recommend a suitable painkiller
Difficulty sleeping, feeling agitated, muscle cramps, hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that are not really there), itchy rash, and urine incontinenceIf any of these become troublesome, speak with your doctor

If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to this medicine, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.

  • Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
  • Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.

Never take more than the prescribed dose. If you suspect that you or someone else might have taken an overdose of this medicine, go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital. Take the container with you, even if it is empty.

This medicine is for you. Never give it to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.

Do not keep out-of-date or unwanted medicines. Take them to your local pharmacy which will dispose of them for you.

If you have any questions about this medicine ask your pharmacist.

Further reading & references

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.

Original Author:
Helen Allen
Current Version:
Peer Reviewer:
Dr Adrian Bonsall
Document ID:
3389 (v23)
Last Checked:
Next Review:
The Information Standard - certified member

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