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Systematic (IUPAC) name
(RS)-2-[(1-benzyl-4-piperidyl)methyl]- 5,6-dimethoxy-2,3-dihydroinden-1-one
Clinical data
Trade names Aricept
  • C
Legal status
  • (Prescription only)
Routes of
Oral tablet, 5,10 & 23mg
Pharmacokinetic data
Bioavailability 100%
Protein binding 96%
Biological half-life 70 hours
Excretion 0,11-0,13 (l/h/kg)
CAS Registry Number  Y
ATC code N06
PubChem CID:
DrugBank  Y
ChemSpider  Y
PDB ligand ID E20 (, )
Chemical data
Formula C24H29NO3
Molecular mass 379.492 g/mol

Donepezil, marketed under the trade name Aricept by its developer Eisai and partner Pfizer, and now sold as a generic by multiple suppliers, is a centrally acting reversible acetylcholinesterase inhibitor.[1] Its main therapeutic use is in the palliative treatment of Alzheimer's disease.[2] Common side effects include gastrointestinal upset. It has an oral bioavailability of 100% and easily crosses the blood–brain barrier. Because it has a biological half-life of about 70 hours, it can be taken once a day.


  • Medical uses 1
    • Alzheimer's disease 1.1
  • Adverse effects 2
    • Contraindications 2.1
  • Mechanism of action 3
  • Research 4
  • Development and marketing 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Medical uses

Alzheimer's disease

Currently, no definitive proof shows the use of donepezil or other similar agents alters the course or progression of Alzheimer's disease (AD). However, 6 to 12-month controlled studies have shown modest benefits in cognition and/or behavior.[3] The UK National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends donepezil as an option in the management of mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease.[4] The person should, however, be reviewed frequently and if there is no significant benefit it should be stopped.[4] In 2006 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration also approved donepezil for treatment of severe dementia.[5] University College London estimates that 26,000 Britons per year could forego admittance to elder care facilities and continue living at home if British doctors prescribed Donepezil through the later stages of dementia.[6]

Adverse effects

In clinical trials the most common adverse events leading to discontinuation were nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting.[7][8]


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

Patients with gastrointestinal disorders should use caution because nausea or vomiting may occur. These symptoms may appear more frequent when initiating treatment or increasing the donepezil dose. Although occurrence of seizures is rare, patients who have a predisposition to seizures should be treated with caution.[9]

Mechanism of action

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.[10][11] 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. Donepezil binds and inactivates reversibly the cholinesterases, thus inhibiting hydrolysis of acetylcholine. This results in an increased acetylcholine concentrations at cholinergic synapses.


Donepezil has been tested (off label) in other cognitive disorders, including Lewy body dementia,[12] and vascular dementia,[13] but it is not currently approved for these indications. Donepezil has also been found to improve sleep apnea in Alzheimer's patients.[14] It also improves gait in patient with mild Alzheimer's Disease. [15]

Donepezil has also been studied in patients with mild cognitive impairment, schizophrenia, attention deficit disorder, post-Coronary artery bypass surgery cognitive impairment,[16] cognitive impairment associated with multiple sclerosis, CADASIL syndrome, and Down syndrome. A three-year National Institutes of Health trial in patients 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. In a secondary analysis, a subgroup of individuals with the apolipoprotein E4 genotype showed sustained benefits with donepezil throughout the study.[17] At this time, though, donepezil is not indicated for prevention of dementia.

A 2001 study suggested that donepezil can improve speech in autistic children. The study found the speech of autistic children that was originally mildly to moderately affected appeared to improve with the use of donepezil.[18][19]

Development and marketing

Donepezil inhibiting Torpedo californica acetylcholinesterase. See Proteopedia 1eve.
10mg 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.[20] As of 2011, Aricept was the world's best-selling Alzheimer's disease treatment.[21] The first generic donepezil became available in November 2010 with the USFDA approval of a formulation prepared by Ranbaxy Labs.[22] In April 2011 a second generic formulation, from Wockhardt, received tentative USFDA marketing approval.[23]

See also


  1. ^ Birks J, Harvey RJ (2006). Birks, Jacqueline, ed. "Donepezil for dementia due to Alzheimer's disease". Cochrane Database Syst Rev (1): CD001190.  
  2. ^ "aricept". The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. Retrieved 3 April 2011. 
  3. ^ Steele LS, Glazier RH (April 1999). "Is donepezil effective for treating Alzheimer's disease?". Can Fam Physician 45: 917–9.  
  4. ^ a b
  5. ^ FDA Press Release 2006
  6. ^ Sarah Knapton, The Daily Telegraph 27 October 2015
  7. ^ "" (PDF). 
  8. ^ Noetzli M1, Eap CB. Pharmacodynamic, pharmacokinetic and pharmacogenetic aspects of drugs used in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. Clin Pharmacokinet. 2013 Apr;52(4):225-41. PMID 23408070
  9. ^ Aricept (donepezil hydrochloride) package insert. Woodcliff Lake, NJ: Eisai Co., Ltd.; 2010 Nov.
  10. ^ Davies P, Maloney AJ (December 1976). "Selective loss of central cholinergic neurons in Alzheimer's disease". Lancet 2 (8000): 1403.  
  11. ^ Kása P, Rakonczay Z, Gulya K (August 1997). "The cholinergic system in Alzheimer's disease". Prog. Neurobiol. 52 (6): 511–35.  
  12. ^ Rojas-Fernandez CH (February 2001). "Successful use of donepezil for the treatment of dementia with Lewy bodies". Ann Pharmacother 35 (2): 202–5.  
  13. ^ Malouf R, Birks J (2004). Malouf, Reem, ed. "Donepezil for vascular cognitive impairment". Cochrane Database Syst Rev (1): CD004395.  
  14. ^ 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.  
  15. ^ 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: JAD 43 (1): 193–199.  
  16. ^ Doraiswamy PM (2007). "Donepezil for cognitive decline following coronary artery bypass surgery: a pilot randomized controlled trial.". Psychopharmacology Bulletin 40 (2): 54–62.  
  17. ^ 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 (Jun 9, 2005). "Vitamin E and donepezil for the treatment of mild cognitive impairment.". The New England Journal of Medicine 352 (23): 2379–88.  
  18. ^ "Alzheimer's Drug Shows Promise As Treatment for Autism -- Arehart-Treichel". Psychiatric News ( 2001-11-16. Retrieved 2009-08-18. 
  19. ^ Donepezil hydrochloride: a double-blind study in autistic children
  20. ^ Rodrigues Simões MC. et al. Donepezil: an important prototype to the design of new drug candidates for Alzheimer's disease. Mini Rev Med Chem. 2014 Jan;14(1):2-19. PMID 24251806
  21. ^ Kanoko Matsuyama (25 April 2011). "Eisai Aricept Patch for Alzheimer’s Isn’t Ready for Approval". Bloomberg. Retrieved 25 April 2011. 
  22. ^ "Ranbaxy gets FDA nod for Alzheimer's drug".  
  23. ^ Staff Writer (25 April 2011). "Wockhardt Obtains US FDA Nod For Generic Version Of Aricept Tablets".  

External links

  • Brenner, George D.; George M., PhD. Brenner (2000). Pharmacology. Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders.  
  • Acting Editor-in-Chief Louise Welbanks. (2000). Compendium of Pharmaceuticals and Specialities, 2000 (25th ed.). Canadian Pharmaceutical Assn.  
  • Official Aricept product site
  • Aricept entry at
  • 3D Molecular structure of Donepezil
  • Acetylcholinesterase: A gorge-ous enzyme QUite Interesting PDB Structure article at PDBe
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