Aricept (donepezil)

Medically Reviewed By Elizabeth Scheffel, PharmD

About Aricept

Aricept is a brand-name prescription medication. It’s approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat dementia related to Alzheimer’s disease. (Alzheimer’s disease is a brain condition. It leads to trouble with thinking and memory that gets worse over time.)

Doctors can prescribe Aricept for adults with mild, moderate, or severe Alzheimer’s disease.

For details about this condition and how the drug treats it, see the “Aricept: Uses” section below.

Key points

The following table provides key facts about Aricept.

Active drug donepezil
Drug classification acetylcholinesterase inhibitor
Form oral tablet

Finding a healthcare professional

If you’re interested in taking this drug, search here to find a doctor who might prescribe it.

Aricept: Generic

Aricept is a brand-name medication. It contains the active drug donepezil, which also comes in a generic form. A generic is an identical copy of the active drug found in a brand-name medication.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ensures that generic drugs are as safe and effective as their original drug. Generics tend to be less expensive than brand-name drugs.

If you’d like to know about using the generic version of Aricept, ask your doctor or pharmacist. They can tell you if the generic medication comes in forms and strengths recommended for your condition.

Aricept: Side effects

As with most drugs, it’s possible to have side effects with Aricept. These can include some mild side effects, but also some serious ones.

To learn more about Aricept’s side effects, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. They may also provide information about managing certain side effects of this drug.

Note: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tracks side effects of drugs it has approved. If you would like to notify the FDA about a side effect you’ve had with Aricept, you can do so through MedWatch.

Mild and serious side effects

Mild and serious side effects of Aricept are listed in the table below. This table does not include all of Aricept’s possible side effects.

Mild side effects* Serious side effects
• mild problems with digestion, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea • severe problems with digestion, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
loss of appetite • heart problems, such as heart block (slowing or stopping of the electrical signals in your heart) or bradycardia (slow heartbeat)
dizziness • urination problems, such as incontinence (inability to control your bladder) or urinary tract infection (UTI)
bruising • high level of stomach acid, which can cause bleeding or ulcers or in the stomach
insomnia hallucinations
fatigue aggression or hostility
weight loss nightmares or other unusual dreams
muscle cramps seizures
  allergic reaction

* This is not a complete list of Aricept’s mild side effects. To learn about other mild side effects of this drug, ask your doctor or pharmacist. Or you can view the drug’s prescribing information.
† To learn more about allergic reaction, see below.

Most times, mild side effects of a drug go away within a few days or a couple of weeks. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist if any side effects become severe or don’t go away.

Serious side effects from Aricept aren’t common, but they are possible. If you have serious side effects, call your doctor right away. However, if you’re having a medical emergency or your symptoms feel life threatening, call 911 or a local emergency number.

Allergic reaction

As with most drugs, some people can have an allergic reaction after taking Aricept. A more severe allergic reaction is rare but possible.

Possible symptoms of mild and serious allergic reactions are listed in the table below.

Mild allergic reaction symptoms Serious allergic reaction symptoms
flushing • swelling under your skin, possibly in your hands, feet, lips, or eyelids
rash • swelling in your throat or mouth
• itching trouble breathing

If you have an allergic reaction to Aricept, call your doctor right away. This is important to do because the reaction could become severe.

However, if you’re having a medical emergency or your symptoms feel life threatening, call 911 or a local emergency number.

Aricept: Dosage

Below, you’ll find dosages that are commonly recommended for Aricept. However, you should take the dosage your doctor prescribes for you. They’ll recommend the dosage that’s best for your needs.

Most often, doctors start by prescribing a low dosage of Aricept. Then, they’ll change the dosage over time to an amount that’s right for the condition being treated. Doctors typically prescribe the smallest dosage that gives the desired outcome.

The dosage of Aricept that your doctor prescribes will depend on the severity of the condition you’re using the drug to treat.

Aricept’s forms and strengths

Aricept is available as follows.

  • Form: oral tablet
  • Strengths: 5 milligrams (mg), 10 mg, and 23 mg

Aricept’s recommended dosages

Aricept is approved to treat dementia related to mild, moderate, or severe Alzheimer’s disease in adults. Recommended dosages for treating this condition are as follows.

Condition Starting dosage Maximum dosage
mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease 5 mg once per day 10 mg once per day
moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease 5 mg once per day 23 mg once per day

Dosage considerations

Below are some things to consider about Aricept’s dosage.

  • Missing a dose. If you miss a dose of Aricept, skip the missed dose. Then continue your usual dosage schedule. However, if you miss at least seven doses of Aricept in a row, talk with your doctor. They may restart your treatment at a lower dosage. Do not take multiple doses to make up for a missed dose. Doing so can increase your risk of side effects from Aricept. View these medication reminder options to help avoid missing doses. You could also set an alarm, use a timer, or download a reminder app on your phone.
  • Length of treatment. Doctors typically prescribe Aricept as a long-term treatment. You’ll likely take it long term if you and your doctor feel it’s safe and effective for your condition.

Aricept: Alternatives

Doctors may prescribe drugs other than Aricept for your condition. Certain drugs may work better for you than others.

Aricept is used to treat Alzheimer’s disease in certain people. Here’s a summary of other drugs that doctors sometimes prescribe for this condition. Your doctor can tell you about other similar drugs, such as memantine (Namenda).

To learn more about alternatives to Aricept, ask your doctor. They can tell you about other medications that could be prescribed for your condition.

Aricept: Questions you may have

Here are some common questions about Aricept and brief answers to them. If you’d like to know more about these topics, ask your doctor.

Are there side effects of stopping Aricept? And when should I stop taking Aricept?

There weren’t any side effects reported after people stopped taking Aricept in clinical studies.

You’ll likely take this drug as long as it continues to be safe and effective for treating your condition.

To learn more about when to stop taking Aricept and what might happen when you do, talk with your doctor.

Can you take Aricept without having Alzheimer’s disease?

Yes, it’s possible you could take Aricept without having Alzheimer’s disease.

Aricept is approved to treat dementia related to Alzheimer’s disease. Doctors typically prescribe Aricept for adults with mild, moderate, or severe Alzheimer’s disease.

However, doctors can prescribe Aricept off-label for other conditions that aren’t related to Alzheimer’s disease. (With off-label use, doctors prescribe a drug for a purpose other than what it’s approved for.)

For example, doctors may prescribe Aricept to treat other forms of dementia. Examples include Parkinson’s disease dementia, Lewy body dementia, and vascular dementia. If your doctor prescribes Aricept for any of these purposes, you could take Aricept without having Alzheimer’s disease.

If you have conditions other than Alzheimer’s disease and are interested in taking Aricept, talk with your doctor. They’ll recommend the best treatment option for you.

Does Aricept cause certain side effects in older people?

Aricept may cause certain side effects in older people.

Specifically, any of the side effects listed in the “Aricept: Side effects” section above may occur in older people. This is because Alzheimer’s disease typically occurs in people ages 55 years or older. And Aricept is used to treat dementia related to Alzheimer’s disease. So, most people in Aricept’s clinical studies were older adults. However, it’s not known if Aricept causes different or worsened side effects in people based on age.

To learn more about how your age affects your risk of side effects with Aricept, talk with your doctor.

Is Aricept used for vascular dementia?

Aricept isn’t approved to treat vascular dementia. Instead, Aricept is approved to treat dementia related to Alzheimer’s disease.

Vascular dementia is a type of dementia that happens when blood flow to the brain is reduced. Although the drug isn’t approved for this use, doctors may prescribe Aricept off-label for vascular dementia. (With off-label use, doctors prescribe a drug for a purpose other than what it’s approved for.)

If you have vascular dementia and are interested in taking Aricept, talk with your doctor. They’ll recommend the treatment option that’s best for you.

Aricept: Uses

Prescription drugs, such as Aricept, are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat certain conditions. Doctors sometimes prescribe drugs off-label for other conditions. With off-label use, doctors prescribe a drug for a purpose other than what it’s approved for.

Using Aricept for dementia caused by Alzheimer’s disease

The FDA has approved Aricept to treat dementia related to Alzheimer’s disease in adults.

Dementia is a condition that causes problems with thinking, memory, and communication. Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia. It’s a brain condition that leads to trouble with thinking and memory that gets worse over time.

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease include:

  • memory loss
  • vision problems, such as the inability to perceive distances
  • trouble planning ahead or solving problems
  • trouble keeping track of time or place
  • speech problems, such as incorrectly naming a familiar object

Doctors can prescribe Aricept for Alzheimer’s disease that’s mild, moderate, or severe.

Using Aricept in children

Doctors typically won’t prescribe Aricept for children. The drug is only approved for use in adults.

Finding a healthcare professional for Aricept

If you’re interested in taking Aricept, you can find a doctor who might prescribe it by searching here. You can prepare for your appointment by viewing Healthgrades’ appointment guide for Alzheimer’s disease.

Aricept: How it works

Aricept is approved to treat dementia related to Alzheimer’s disease. To learn more, see the “Aricept: Uses” section above.

People with Alzheimer’s disease have a low level of the brain chemical acetylcholine. This chemical helps with brain functions such as memory and thinking. Low levels of acetylcholine can lead to dementia that worsens over time.

Aricept belongs to a class of drugs called acetylcholinesterase inhibitors. Its mechanism of action (how it works) is to block the activity of an enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine. (Enzymes are types of proteins.)

By blocking this enzyme, Aricept helps keep a higher level of acetylcholine in the brain. As a result, the drug may help slow the worsening of dementia in people with Alzheimer’s disease.

How long does Aricept take to start working?

Aricept will start easing the symptoms of your condition within a couple of weeks after taking your first dose.

Aricept: Precautions

Tell your doctor about your health history before starting treatment with Aricept. Your doctor may not recommend this medication if you have certain factors affecting your health or specific medical conditions.

These factors and conditions include those listed below.

  • Planned procedure with anesthesia. Aricept can affect how well anesthesia will work for you during a procedure or surgery. (Anesthesia is a treatment that helps prevent pain.) Before taking the drug, be sure your doctor knows about any procedures or surgeries you have planned. They can recommend whether your Aricept treatment plan should be adjusted around the time of the procedure or surgery.
  • Stomach ulcers. Aricept may cause a high level of stomach acid, which can cause bleeding or ulcers in the stomach. People who already have stomach ulcers may have a higher risk of this side effect. Before starting Aricept, tell your doctor if you have this condition. They can recommend whether Aricept is a safe treatment option for you.
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or asthma. Before taking Aricept, tell your doctor if you have COPD, asthma, or other lung problems. The drug may worsen these conditions. Your doctor can advise whether Aricept is safe for you to take.
  • Heart problems. Before taking Aricept, tell your doctor if you have heart problems. This includes problems with the electrical signals in your heart, such as abnormal heart rhythm. Taking Aricept may cause heart problems, such as heart block (slowing or stopping of the electrical signals in your heart) or bradycardia (slow heartbeat). Your doctor can talk with you about the benefits and risks of taking Aricept.
  • Seizures. If you have seizures, talk with your doctor before taking Aricept. The drug may cause seizures as a side effect, which could worsen your condition. Your doctor can advise whether Aricept is a safe treatment option for you.
  • Allergic reaction. Having had an allergic reaction to Aricept or any of its ingredients is a contraindication for taking the drug. (A contraindication is a factor or condition that could prevent your doctor from prescribing a drug due to the risk of harm.) Your doctor will likely not prescribe Aricept if you’ve had an allergic reaction to it in the past. To find out about other treatment options, talk with your doctor.
  • Pregnancy. It isn’t known if Aricept is safe to use during pregnancy. If you’d like to learn more information about taking Aricept while pregnant, view the “Aricept: Taking while pregnant” section below.
  • Breastfeeding. It’s not known if Aricept is safe to use while breastfeeding. If you’d like to learn more information about taking Aricept while breastfeeding, view the “Aricept: Taking while breastfeeding” section below.

To learn more about effects of Aricept that could be harmful, see the “Aricept: Side effects” section above.

Aricept: Cost

Like other medications, prices for Aricept may vary. The drug’s price will depend on factors such as:

Cost considerations for Aricept

Here’s a list of things to consider when looking into the cost of Aricept.

  • Option for a 90-day supply. For some drugs, it’s possible to get a 90-day supply. If this option is approved by your insurance company, it can help lower the cost of the drug. It can also help you avoid frequent trips to your pharmacy. If you’d like to learn more about this option, ask your doctor, pharmacist, or insurance company.
  • Need for prior authorization. Before insurance coverage for Aricept is approved, your insurance company may require prior authorization. In this case, your doctor and insurance company will communicate about your prescription for Aricept. Then, the insurance company will decide if the drug will be covered. To find out if you need prior authorization for Aricept, contact your insurance company.
  • Possible cost assistance options. Financial assistance to help lower the cost of Aricept may be available. Visit the Needy Meds website to learn more and see if you’re eligible for support. Also, check out this article to learn about ways to save on prescription drugs.
  • Use of a mail-order pharmacy. Aricept may be dispensed through mail-order pharmacies. Getting your prescription through a mail-order pharmacy could lower its cost. It can also allow you to get the drug without leaving home. To find out more about this option, check with your doctor, pharmacist, or insurance company.
  • Availability of a generic form. Aricept comes in a generic form called donepezil. A generic drug is an exact copy of the active drug in a brand-name medication. Generics are typically less expensive than brand-name drugs. If your doctor prescribes Aricept but you want to know about using donepezil, talk with your doctor about which option might be better for you. Also, check your insurance plan because it might cover just one form or the other.

Aricept: Consuming alcohol during treatment

Alcohol isn’t known to interact with Aricept.

However, it’s best to talk with your doctor before drinking alcohol while taking this drug. They can advise whether it’s safe to drink alcohol during Aricept treatment.

Aricept: Interactions

Aricept may interact with other medications. It’s not known to interact with any herbs, supplements, or foods.

Different interactions can cause different effects. Some interactions can interfere with a drug’s effectiveness. Others can increase a drug’s side effects or cause them to be severe.

If any of the interactions listed below might pertain to you, talk with your doctor. They can tell you what you need to do to avoid the interaction.

  • Aricept and certain other medications. Because Aricept may interact with certain drugs, your doctor may recommend that you don’t take it with these drugs. Examples include:
    • anticholinergic drugs, such as darifenacin (Enablex) and oxybutynin (Oxytrol)
    • other acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, such as galantamine (Razadyne ER) and rivastigmine (Exelon)
  • Aricept and herbs and supplements. Aricept isn’t known to interact with any herbs or supplements. If you have questions about taking certain herbs or supplements with Aricept, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.
  • Aricept and foods. Aricept isn’t known to interact with any foods. If you have questions about eating certain foods with Aricept, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

Aricept: How to take

Your doctor will recommend how you should take Aricept. It’s important that you take the drug exactly as your doctor instructs.

Aricept comes as an oral tablet. You’ll take the drug by swallowing it.

Questions about taking Aricept

Here’s a list of common questions related to taking Aricept.

  • When should I take Aricept? You’ll take Aricept in the evening before your bedtime. Taking Aricept around the same time of day helps keep a steady level of it in your body. This helps the medication work effectively. View these medication reminder options to help avoid missing doses of Aricept. You could also set an alarm, use a timer, or download a reminder app on your phone.
  • Do I need to take Aricept with food? You can take Aricept with or without food.
  • Can Aricept be chewed, split, or crushed? The manufacturer of Aricept doesn’t state whether the 5-milligram (mg) or 10-mg tablets can be chewed, split, or crushed. However, Aricept 23-mg tablets should not be chewed, split, or crushed. If you have trouble swallowing Aricept tablets, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.
  • Is there a best time of day to take Aricept? Yes. You’ll take Aricept in the evening, just before your bedtime.

Aricept: Taking while pregnant

It isn’t known whether Aricept is safe to use during pregnancy.

Animal studies have shown harm to offspring exposed to the drug during pregnancy. However, animal studies don’t necessarily predict what happens in humans.

Keep in mind that Aricept is approved to treat dementia related to Alzheimer’s disease. This condition typically occurs in people ages 55 years or older. So, pregnancy may not be likely in most people taking Aricept.

If you’re pregnant or planning a pregnancy, talk with your doctor. They can talk with you about the risks and benefits of taking Aricept while pregnant.

Aricept and birth control needs

Doctors aren’t sure if it’s safe to take Aricept during pregnancy. Talk with your doctor about your birth control needs with Aricept if you’re sexually active and you or your partner can become pregnant. Your doctor can recommend if you should use birth control with this medication.

Aricept: Taking while breastfeeding

It’s not known if Aricept is passes into breast milk or if it causes side effects in a breastfed child.

Keep in mind that Aricept is approved to treat dementia related to Alzheimer’s disease. This condition typically occurs in people ages 55 years or older. So, breastfeeding may not be likely in most people taking Aricept.

If you’re breastfeeding or planning to do so, talk with your doctor. They can discuss the risks and benefits of taking Aricept while breastfeeding.

Aricept: Overdose

Serious effects can occur if you use more than the recommended dosage of Aricept. Do not use more Aricept than your doctor recommends.

Symptoms of overdose

Symptoms that an Aricept overdose could cause include:

What to do in case of overdose

Call your doctor if you think you’ve taken too much of this drug. Also, you can call the American Association of Poison Control Centers at 800-222-1222 or use its online tool. However, if your symptoms are severe, call 911 or your local emergency number. Or go to the nearest emergency room right away.

Aricept: Expiration, storage, and disposal

Here’s some information about Aricept’s expiration date, as well as how to store and dispose of the drug.

  • Expiration. Your pharmacist will add an expiration date to the label on Aricept’s bottle. This date is usually 1 year from the date the medication was dispensed to you. Expiration dates help ensure that a medication is effective during a period of time. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises that you avoid using expired drugs. If you have an unused medication and it’s past the drug’s expiration date, talk with your pharmacist. They can let you know whether you might still be able to use the medication.
  • Storage. Many factors determine how long a medication remains good to use. These factors include how and where you store the drug. Aricept tablets should be stored at a room temperature between 59°F and 86°F (15°C and 30°C). Avoid storing them in areas where they could get damp or wet, such as bathrooms.
  • Disposal. It’s important to safely dispose of Aricept if you no longer need to take it and have unused medication. Doing so helps prevent others, including children and pets, from accidentally taking the drug. It also helps avoid causing harm to the environment. Ask your pharmacist for information about disposing of Aricept. Also, check out this page for several tips on safe medication disposal.

Aricept: Questions for your doctor

If you have questions about Aricept, talk with your doctor. They can help advise you on whether Aricept could be a good treatment option for you.

Here’s a list of questions you may want to ask your doctor:

  • Will Aricept cure my condition?
  • Will I take Aricept along with other medications that treat my condition?
  • Do I have any health conditions that could increase my risk of side effects with Aricept?

Your doctor may also tell you about other treatment options for your condition. You may find this article helpful in learning about alternative drugs for Alzheimer’s disease.

Disclaimer: Healthgrades has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up to date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or another healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.

Medical Reviewer: Elizabeth Scheffel, PharmD
Last Review Date: 2022 May 23
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.