ARICEPT and the brain

How a healthy brain works.

In a healthy brain, a chemical called acetylcholine helps messages jump from one nerve ending to another.

After that, another chemical called acetylcholinesterase reduces the amount of acetylcholine.

Acetylcholine helps maintain brain function that can affect memory, judgment, thinking and awareness.

How Alzheimer's affects the brain.

In the brain of someone with Alzheimer's, there is less acetylcholine. Doctors believe this is one of the factors that cause Alzheimer's symptoms like a decline in mental function and a decreased ability to perform daily activities.

ARICEPT is thought to help Alzheimer's patients by increasing the amount of acetylcholine.

ARICEPT (donepezil HCl) increases acetylcholine by slowing the activity of acetylcholinesterase.

  • Simulation of acetylcholine flowing between nerve endings in the brain
    of someone with Alzheimer's*.

  • Simulation of increased acetylcholine in someone on ARICEPT*.

As Alzheimer's progresses, the levels of acetylcholine continue to decline in the brain. It is thought that a higher dose of ARICEPT may be needed to raise acetylcholine levels to the point where patients may experience positive results.

ARICEPT 23 mg is for moderate to severe Alzheimer's disease.

It's important to remember that while ARICEPT treats the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, it is not a cure. All patients will get worse over time, even if they take ARICEPT 23 mg.

*Artist's rendering of nerve endings and acetycholine.


ARICEPT® (donepezil HCl) is a prescription medicine to treat mild, moderate, and severe Alzheimer's disease.


Before starting on ARICEPT 23 mg/day, patients should be on ARICEPT 10 mg/day for at least 3 months. The starting dose of ARICEPT is 5 mg/day and can be increased to 10 mg/day after 4‑6 weeks. Please take ARICEPT as prescribed by the doctor.


  • ARICEPT (donepezil HCl) is not for everyone, including people who are allergic to any ingredients in ARICEPT or to medicines that contain piperidines.

  • Tell the doctor that the patient takes ARICEPT before they have any procedure that may require anesthesia, including dental and medical procedures or surgery.

  • ARICEPT may cause slow heartbeat and fainting. This happens more often in people with heart problems. Call the doctor right away if the patient faints while taking ARICEPT. People may also have seizures while taking ARICEPT. They may also have difficulty passing urine. Lung problems, including asthma, may worsen with the use of ARICEPT.

  • In a study, more side effects were seen with ARICEPT 23 mg than with ARICEPT 10 mg. Many more people taking ARICEPT 23 mg experienced nausea and vomiting than those taking ARICEPT 10 mg. These side effects may get better after the patient takes ARICEPT for a while.

  • People at risk for stomach ulcers or who take certain other medicines, such as aspirin or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), should tell their doctor because serious stomach problems, such as bleeding, may get worse.

  • Other side effects that were seen more often with ARICEPT 23 mg were stomach ulcers, gastrointestinal bleeding, and weight loss. People of lower weight (less than 121 lbs) may have increased nausea, vomiting, and weight loss when taking ARICEPT 23 mg.

  • Other side effects of ARICEPT may include diarrhea, difficulty sleeping, vomiting, or muscle cramps. Some people may feel tired or may have loss of appetite.

  • Tell the doctor if your loved one takes nonprescription or prescription medicines, including those used to treat Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease; anticholinergic medicines, such as allergy or cold medicine; medicines to treat bladder or bowel spasms; or certain asthma medicines.