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Donepezil (Aricept)

Other names: Aricept

Donepezil is a drug used in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. It has been studied as a treatment for impaired memory in people with cognitive symptoms due to multiple sclerosis.

A small study followed 69 people with MS taking either donepezil or a placebo for 24 weeks. It found that twice as many people in the treatment group reported memory improvement (65.7%) than those on placebo (32.4%). Health professionals also reported that more people in the treatment group showed improved cognitive symptoms. However, a larger study involving 120 people with MS showed no difference in improving memory between donepezil and placebo. More gastrointestinal side effects are seen with this type of medication than with a placebo. Because there have been limited trials of donepezil in MS and the results have been mixed, the current evidence of the efficacy of donepezil on cognitive function in people with MS is unclear.

How donepezil works

Donepezil is a cholinesterase inhibitor. It is thought to work by inhibiting an enzyme which breaks down acetylcholine, which is a chemical in the central nervous system that acts as a neurotransmitter - carrying messages from nerve to nerve. Therefore, donepezil increases levels of acetylcholine.

How is donepezil given?

Donepezil is taken orally as tablets.

Side effects and contraindications

Donepezil is generally well tolerated with no serious side effects observed during the studies other than reports of unusual dreams.

Last updated: March 2018
Last reviewed: March 2018
This page will be reviewed within three years