Aricept works by preventing the breakdown of the chemical acetylcholine—thus improving function of the nerve cells in the brain. Acetylcholine is important for functions such as processes of memory, thinking and reasoning. This chemical is found at lower levels in the brain of someone suffering from dementia. Aricept is used to treat dementia in patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Eisai, Inc. manufactures Aricept, and it gained approval by the FDA in 1996.

In 2010, the FDA approved Aricept 23 (an increased dose of the drug), despite requests from medical advisers to deny the approval. Clinical trials failed to show how an increased dose improved cognitive function in patients with dementia. The study actually proved the opposite, according to another study released in 2012 by the British Medical Journal, which said the increased dose exposed patients to more dangerous side effects. This same study stated that the drug did not delay the onset of severe Alzheimer’s disease and did little to benefit the patient, while also being expensive.

The FDA recently looked into a study conducted by Eisai on 972 patients suffering from dementia. Among those patients, there were 11 deaths linked to the use of Aricept, while no deaths occurred in patients taking the placebo.

Side effects may include:

  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle cramps
  • Tired feeling
  • Sleep problems (insomnia)

Serious side effects may include:

  • Allergic reaction with symptoms such as difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat
  • Black, bloody, or tarry stools
  • Coughing up blood or vomit that looks like blood or coffee grounds
  • Painful or difficult urination
  • Seizure (black-out or convulsions)
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