August 30, 2016
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Included as part of the PRECAUTIONS section.



ARICEPT, as a cholinesterase inhibitor, is likely to exaggerate succinylcholine-type muscle relaxation during anesthesia.

Cardiovascular Conditions

Because of their pharmacological action, cholinesterase inhibitors may have vagotonic effects on the sinoatrial and atrioventricular nodes. This effect may manifest as bradycardia or heart block in patients both with and without known underlying cardiac conduction abnormalities. Syncopal episodes have been reported in association with the use of ARICEPT.

Nausea And Vomiting

ARICEPT, as a predictable consequence of its pharmacological properties, has been shown to produce diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. These effects, when they occur, appear more frequently with the 10 mg/day dose than with the 5 mg/day dose, and more frequently with the 23 mg dose than with the 10 mg dose. Specifically, in a controlled trial that compared a dose of 23 mg/day to 10 mg/day in patients who had been treated with donepezil 10 mg/day for at least three months, the incidence of nausea in the 23 mg group was markedly greater than in the patients who continued on 10 mg/day (11.8% vs. 3.4%, respectively), and the incidence of vomiting in the 23 mg group was markedly greater than in the 10 mg group (9.2% vs. 2.5%, respectively). The percent of patients who discontinued treatment due to vomiting in the 23 mg group was markedly higher than in the 10 mg group (2.9% vs. 0.4%, respectively).

Although in most cases, these effects have been transient, sometimes lasting one to three weeks, and have resolved during continued use of ARICEPT, patients should be observed closely at the initiation of treatment and after dose increases.

Peptic Ulcer Disease And GI Bleeding

Through their primary action, cholinesterase inhibitors may be expected to increase gastric acid secretion due to increased cholinergic activity. Therefore, patients should be monitored closely for symptoms of active or occult gastrointestinal bleeding, especially those at increased risk for developing ulcers, e.g., those with a history of ulcer disease or those receiving concurrent nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Clinical studies of ARICEPT in a dose of 5 mg/day to 10 mg/day have shown no increase, relative to placebo, in the incidence of either peptic ulcer disease or gastrointestinal bleeding. Results of a controlled clinical study with 23 mg/day showed an increase, relative to 10 mg/day, in the incidence of peptic ulcer disease (0.4% vs. 0.2%) and gastrointestinal bleeding from any site (1.1% vs. 0.6%).

Weight Loss

Weight loss was reported as an adverse reaction in 4.7% of patients assigned to ARICEPT in a dose of 23 mg/day compared to 2.5% of patients assigned to 10 mg/day. Compared to their baseline weights, 8.4% of patients taking 23 mg/day were found to have a weight decrease of ≥ 7% by the end of the study, while 4.9% of patients taking 10 mg/day were found to have weight loss of ≥ 7% at the end of the study.

Genitourinary Conditions

Although not observed in clinical trials of ARICEPT, cholinomimetics may cause bladder outflow obstruction.

Neurological Conditions: Seizures

Cholinomimetics are believed to have some potential to cause generalized convulsions. However, seizure activity also may be a manifestation of Alzheimer's disease.

Pulmonary Conditions

Because of their cholinomimetic actions, cholinesterase inhibitors should be prescribed with care to patients with a history of asthma or obstructive pulmonary disease.

Patient Counseling Information

Advise the patient to read the FDA-approved patient labeling (PATIENT INFORMATION).

Instruct patients and caregivers to take ARICEPT only once per day, as prescribed.

Instruct patients and caregivers that ARICEPT can be taken with or without food. ARICEPT 23 mg tablets should be swallowed whole without the tablets being split, crushed or chewed. ARICEPT ODT should not be swallowed whole, but be allowed to dissolve on the tongue and followed with water.

Advise patients and caregivers that ARICEPT may cause nausea, diarrhea, insomnia, vomiting, muscle cramps, fatigue, and decreased appetite.

Nonclinical Toxicology

Carcinogenesis, Mutagenesis, Impairment Of Fertility

No evidence of carcinogenic potential was obtained in an 88-week carcinogenicity study of donepezil conducted in mice at oral doses up to 180 mg/kg/day (approximately 40 times the maximum recommended human dose [MRHD] of 23 mg/day on a mg/m² basis), or in a 104-week carcinogenicity study in rats at oral doses up to 30 mg/kg/day (approximately 13 times the MRHD on a mg/m² basis).

Donepezil was negative in a battery of genotoxicity assays (in vitro bacterial reverse mutation, in vitro mouse lymphoma tk, in vitro chromosomal aberration, and in vivo mouse micronucleus).

Donepezil had no effect on fertility in rats at oral doses up to 10 mg/kg/day (approximately 4 times the MRHD on a mg/m² basis) when administered to males and females prior to and during mating and continuing in females through implantation.

Use In Specific Populations


Pregnancy Category C

There are no adequate or well-controlled studies in pregnant women. ARICEPT should be used during pregnancy only if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk to the fetus.

Oral administration of donepezil to pregnant rats and rabbits during the period of organogenesis did not produce any teratogenic effects at doses up to 16 mg/kg/day (approximately 6 times the maximum recommended human dose [MRHD] of 23 mg/day on a mg/m² basis) and 10 mg/kg/day (approximately 7 times the MRHD on a mg/m² basis), respectively. Oral administration of donepezil (1, 3, 10 mg/kg/day) to rats during late gestation and throughout lactation to weaning produced an increase in stillbirths and reduced offspring survival through postpartum day 4 at the highest dose. The no-effect dose of 3 mg/kg/day is approximately equal to the MRHD on a mg/m² basis.

Nursing Mothers

It is not known whether donepezil is excreted in human milk. Caution should be exercised when ARICEPT is administered to a nursing woman.

Pediatric Use

The safety and effectiveness of ARICEPT in pediatric patients have not been established.

Geriatric Use

Alzheimer's disease is a disorder occurring primarily in individuals over 55 years of age. The mean age of patients enrolled in the clinical studies with ARICEPT was 73 years; 80% of these patients were between 65 and 84 years old, and 49% of patients were at or above the age of 75. The efficacy and safety data presented in the clinical trials section were obtained from these patients. There were no clinically significant differences in most adverse reactions reported by patient groups ≥ 65 years old and < 65 years old.

Lower Weight Individuals

In the controlled clinical trial, among patients in the ARICEPT 23 mg treatment group, those patients weighing < 55 kg reported more nausea, vomiting, and decreased weight than patients weighing 55 kg or more. There were more withdrawals due to adverse reactions as well. This finding may be related to higher plasma exposure associated with lower weight.

This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.

Last reviewed on RxList: 8/5/2015


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