Donepezil, which is sold under the brand name Aricept, is a cholinesterase inhibitor (an enzyme blocker) used to treat mild, moderate, or severe dementia in people who have Alzheimer's disease.
It improves mental functions (including attention, memory, and the ability to interact and speak with others) by preventing the naturally occurring neurotransmitters in the brain from breaking down.
It will not cure Alzheimer's or prevent the loss of mental abilities in the future.
Donepezil was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1996 to treat mild to moderate Alzheimer's. Currently, donepezil is the world's best-selling Alzheimer's drug.
In 2006, Aricept was approved to treat severe dementia in people with Alzheimer's. The first generic formulation became available in 2010.
Donepezil has also been tested in patients with schizophrenia, attention deficit disorder, and mild cognitive impairment. A 2001 study shows donepezil improves the speech of autistic children.
Donepezil must be taken as prescribed, even if you feel good, to be effective. If you experience sleep problems, your doctor may switch you to a morning dose.
Before taking donepezil, consult with your doctor if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, or if you are planning to have surgery, including dental surgery.
Donepezil should be used with caution by patients who also experience cardiac disease, asthma, severe cardiac arrhythmias, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), so consult with your doctor before using.
Always tell your doctor if your symptoms worsen.