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Donepezil, sold as the trade name Aricept among others, is a medication used to treat Alzheimer's disease.[1] It appears to result in a small benefit in mental function and ability to function.[2] Use, however, has not been shown to change the progression of the disease.[3] Treatment should be stopped if no benefit is seen.[4] It is taken by mouth.[1]

Donepezil skeletal.svg
Clinical data
Trade namesAricept, others
  • AU: B3
  • US: C (Risk not ruled out)
Routes of
By mouth (tablets)
ATC code
Legal status
Legal status
  • AU: S4 (Prescription only)
  • US: ℞-only
  • In general: ℞ (Prescription only)
Pharmacokinetic data
Protein binding96%
Elimination half-life70 hours
Excretion0.11-0.13 (L/h/kg)
CAS Number
PubChem CID
PDB ligand
CompTox Dashboard (EPA)
ECHA InfoCard100.125.198 Edit this at Wikidata
Chemical and physical data
Molar mass379.500 g·mol−1
3D model (JSmol)
ChiralityRacemic mixture

Common side effects include nausea, trouble sleeping, aggression, diarrhea, feeling tired, and muscle cramps.[1][4] Serious side effects may include abnormal heart rhythms, difficulty emptying urine from the bladder, and seizures.[1] Donepezil is a centrally acting reversible acetylcholinesterase inhibitor.[1]

Donepezil was approved for medical use in the United States in 1996.[1] It is available as a generic medication.[4] In the United Kingdom a typical months supply costs the NHS about £8.44 as of 2019.[4] The wholesale cost of this amount in the United States is about US$1.38. [5] In 2016 it was the 98th most prescribed medication in the United States with more than 7 million prescriptions.[6]

Medical usesEdit

Alzheimer's diseaseEdit

There is no evidence that donepezil or other similar agents alters the course or progression of Alzheimer's disease. 6 to 12-month controlled studies have shown modest benefits in cognition or behavior.[7] The UK National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends donepezil as an option in the management of mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease.[8] The person should, however, be reviewed frequently and if there is no significant benefit it should be stopped.[8] In 2006 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration also approved donepezil for treatment of mild, moderate and severe dementia in Alzheimer's disease.[9]

Adverse effectsEdit

In clinical trials the most common adverse events leading to discontinuation were nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting.[10][11] Other side effects included difficulty sleeping, muscle cramps and loss of appetite. Most side effects were observed in patients taking the 23 mg dose compared to 10 mg or lower doses. Side effects improved with continued use.[12]


Donepezil should be used with caution in people with heart disease, cardiac conduction disturbances, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, severe cardiac arrhythmias and sick sinus syndrome.[12]

People with peptic ulcer disease or taking NSAIDS should use with caution because increased risk of gastrointestinal bleeding was noted.[12] Slow heart beat and fainting in people with heart problems were also seen. These symptoms may appear more frequent when initiating treatment or increasing the donepezil dose. Although occurrence of seizures is rare, people who have a predisposition to seizures should be treated with caution.[12]

Mechanism of actionEdit

Donepezil binds and reversibly inactivates the cholinesterases, thus inhibiting hydrolysis of acetylcholine. This increases acetylcholine concentrations at cholinergic synapses.

The precise mechanism of action of donepezil in patients with Alzheimer's disease is not fully understood. Certainly Alzheimer's disease involves a substantial loss of the elements of the cholinergic system and it is generally accepted that the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are related to this cholinergic deficit, particularly in the cerebral cortex and other areas of the brain.[13][14] It is noted that the hippocampal formation plays an important role in the processes of control of attention, memory and learning. Just the severity of the loss of cholinergic neurons of the central nervous system (CNS) has been found to correlate with the severity of cognitive impairment.

In addition to its actions as an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor, donepezil has been found to act as a potent agonist of the σ1 receptor (Ki = 14.6 nM), and has been shown to produce specific antiamnestic effects in animals mainly via this action.[15]


Donepezil medications are racemates.[16]



Donepezil inhibiting Torpedo californica acetylcholinesterase.[17]
10 mg Aricept pill

Research leading to the development of donepezil began in 1983 at Eisai, and in 1996, Eisai received approval from the United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) for donepezil under the brand Aricept, which it co-marketed with Pfizer.[18] The team at Eisai was led by Hachiro Sugimoto[19]

As of 2011, Aricept was the world's best-selling Alzheimer's disease treatment.[20] The first generic donepezil became available in November 2010 with the USFDA approval of a formulation prepared by Ranbaxy Labs.[21] In April 2011 a second generic formulation, from Wockhardt, received tentative USFDA marketing approval.[22]


Donepezil has been tested in other cognitive disorders, including Lewy body dementia,[23] and vascular dementia,[24] but it is not currently approved for these indications. Donepezil has also been found to improve sleep apnea in people with Alzheimer's.[25] It also improves gait in people with mild Alzheimer's.[26]

Donepezil has also been studied in people with mild cognitive impairment, schizophrenia, attention deficit disorder, post-Coronary artery bypass surgery cognitive impairment,[27] cognitive impairment associated with multiple sclerosis, CADASIL syndrome, and Down syndrome. A three-year National Institutes of Health trial in people with mild cognitive impairment reported donepezil was superior to placebo in delaying rate of progression to dementia during the initial 18 months of the study, but this was not sustained at 36 months.[28] In a secondary analysis, a subgroup of individuals with the apolipoprotein E4 genotype showed sustained benefits with donepezil throughout the study.[29] At this time, though, donepezil is not indicated for prevention of dementia.


The addition of donepezil with existing ADHD medications has shown mixed results.[30] In those with Tourette's syndrome and ADHD, donepezil may reduce tics while it had no effect on ADHD's symptoms.[30]

Pervasive developmental disorderEdit

Donepezil along with other cholinesterase inhibitors is suggested as having potential for trouble behaviors, irritability, hyperactivity, and difficulty in social communication which are typically seen in those with pervasive developmental disorder, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified, or autism spectrum disorder.[30]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Donepezil Hydrochloride Monograph for Professionals". American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. Retrieved 4 February 2019.
  2. ^ Birks, JS; Harvey, RJ (18 June 2018). "Donepezil for dementia due to Alzheimer's disease". The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 6: CD001190. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD001190.pub3. PMC 6513124. PMID 29923184.
  3. ^ Swedish Council on Health Technology Assessment (June 2008). "Dementia -- Caring, Ethics, Ethnical and Economical Aspects: A Systematic Review". PMID 28876770. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  4. ^ a b c d British national formulary : BNF 76 (76 ed.). Pharmaceutical Press. 2018. p. 300. ISBN 9780857113382.
  5. ^ "NADAC as of 2019-01-30". Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Retrieved 4 February 2019.
  6. ^ "The Top 300 of 2019". Retrieved 22 December 2018.
  7. ^ Steele LS, Glazier RH (April 1999). "Is donepezil effective for treating Alzheimer's disease?". Can Fam Physician. 45: 917–9. PMC 2328349. PMID 10216789.
  8. ^ a b "Donepezil, galantamine, rivastigmine and memantine for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease | Guidance and guidelines | NICE". 23 March 2011. Retrieved 4 February 2019.
  9. ^ FDA Press Release 2006
  10. ^ "" (PDF).
  11. ^ Noetzli M, Eap CB (Apr 2013). "Pharmacodynamic, pharmacokinetic and pharmacogenetic aspects of drugs used in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease". Clin Pharmacokinet. 52 (4): 225–41. doi:10.1007/s40262-013-0038-9. PMID 23408070.
  12. ^ a b c d Aricept (donepezil hydrochloride) package insert. Woodcliff Lake, NJ: Eisai Co., Ltd.; 2010 Nov.
  13. ^ Davies P, Maloney AJ (December 1976). "Selective loss of central cholinergic neurons in Alzheimer's disease". Lancet. 2 (8000): 1403. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(76)91936-x. PMID 63862.
  14. ^ Kása P, Rakonczay Z, Gulya K (August 1997). "The cholinergic system in Alzheimer's disease". Prog. Neurobiol. 52 (6): 511–35. doi:10.1016/s0301-0082(97)00028-2. PMID 9316159.
  15. ^ Maurice, Tangui; Su, Tsung-Ping (2009). "The pharmacology of sigma-1 receptors". Pharmacology & Therapeutics. 124 (2): 195–206. doi:10.1016/j.pharmthera.2009.07.001. ISSN 0163-7258. PMC 2785038. PMID 19619582.
  16. ^ Rote Liste Service GmbH (Hrsg.): Rote Liste 2017 - Arzneimittelverzeichnis für Deutschland (einschließlich EU-Zulassungen und bestimmter Medizinprodukte). Rote Liste Service GmbH, Frankfurt/Main, 2017, Aufl. 57, ISBN 978-3-946057-10-9, S. 178.
  17. ^ Proteopedia 1eve
  18. ^ Rodrigues Simões, MC; et al. (January 2014). "Donepezil: an important prototype to the design of new drug candidates for Alzheimer's disease". Mini Rev Med Chem. 14 (1): 2–19. doi:10.2174/1389557513666131119201353. PMID 24251806.
  19. ^ Shimbun, Yomiuri. "Developed the magic bullet for Alzheimer's disease after overcoming many difficulties : People : Chuo Online : YOMIURI ONLINE" (Chuo University Gakuin Jihou, Issue 464). Japan News. Retrieved 11 January 2017.
  20. ^ Kanoko Matsuyama (25 April 2011). "Eisai Aricept Patch for Alzheimer's Isn't Ready for Approval". Bloomberg. Retrieved 25 April 2011.
  21. ^ "Ranbaxy gets FDA nod for Alzheimer's drug". The Indian Express. New Delhi, India: Indian Express Group. 30 November 2010. Retrieved 25 April 2011.
  22. ^ Staff Writer (25 April 2011). "Wockhardt Obtains US FDA Nod For Generic Version Of Aricept Tablets". RTTNews. Retrieved 25 April 2011.
  23. ^ Rojas-Fernandez CH (February 2001). "Successful use of donepezil for the treatment of dementia with Lewy bodies". Ann Pharmacother. 35 (2): 202–5. doi:10.1345/aph.10192. PMID 11215841.
  24. ^ Malouf R, Birks J (2004). Malouf, Reem (ed.). "Donepezil for vascular cognitive impairment". Cochrane Database Syst Rev (1): CD004395. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD004395.pub2. PMID 14974068.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  25. ^ Moraes W, Poyares D, Sukys-Claudino L, Guilleminault C, Tufik S (March 2008). "Donepezil improves obstructive sleep apnea in Alzheimer disease: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study". Chest. 133 (3): 677–83. doi:10.1378/chest.07-1446. PMID 18198262.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  26. ^ Montero-Odasso, Manuel; Muir-Hunter, Susan W.; Oteng-Amoako, Afua; Gopaul, Karen; Islam, Anam; Borrie, Michael; Wells, Jennie; Speechley, Mark (2015-01-01). "Donepezil improves gait performance in older adults with mild Alzheimer's disease: a phase II clinical trial". Journal of Alzheimer's Disease. 43 (1): 193–199. doi:10.3233/JAD-140759. ISSN 1875-8908. PMID 25079803.
  27. ^ Doraiswamy PM (2007). "Donepezil for cognitive decline following coronary artery bypass surgery: a pilot randomized controlled trial". Psychopharmacology Bulletin. 40 (2): 54–62. PMID 17514186.
  28. ^ Jelic, V (1 April 2006). "Clinical trials in mild cognitive impairment: lessons for the future". Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry. 77 (4): 429–438. doi:10.1136/jnnp.2005.072926. PMC 2077499. PMID 16306154.
  29. ^ Petersen, RC; Thomas, RG; Grundman, M; Bennett, D; Doody, R; Ferris, S; Galasko, D; Jin, S; Kaye, J; Levey, A; Pfeiffer, E; Sano, M; van Dyck, CH; Thal, LJ; Alzheimer's Disease Cooperative Study Group (June 9, 2005). "Vitamin E and donepezil for the treatment of mild cognitive impairment". The New England Journal of Medicine. 352 (23): 2379–88. doi:10.1056/nejmoa050151. PMID 15829527.
  30. ^ a b c Elbe, Dean (2019). Clinical handbook of psychotropic drugs for children and adolescents. Boston, MA: Hogrefe. p. 366–369. ISBN 978-1-61676-550-7. OCLC 1063705924.

External linksEdit