Donepezil for the treatment of behavioral symptoms in patients with Alzheimer's disease

Diana Paleacu*, Doron Mazeh, Ilona Mirecki, Michael Even, Yoram Barak

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Behavioral and psychologic symptoms of dementia (BPSD) are common manifestations in mid- and late-stage Alzheimer's disease (AD). Traditional treatments for BPSD are neuroleptics and sedatives, which are not devoid of serious adverse effects. A number of studies show beneficial effects in the treatment of BPSD with acetylcholinesterase inhibitors (AChEI). The present study aimed to evaluate the effect of donepezil (using the generic drug Memorit) as monotherapy for AD patients suffering from BPSD. Twenty-eight consecutive patients followed at the Memory Outpatient Clinic and Psychogeriatric Department of the Abarbanel Mental Health Center were treated with donepezil for 6 months. Starting dose was 5 mg daily during the first 4 weeks and continuation with 10 mg daily thereafter. Treatment effects were evaluated using the Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE), the Neuro-Psychiatric Inventory (NPI), and the Clinical Global Impression of Change Scale (CGIC) caregiver version. Twenty-four of 28 patients completed the study. Of these, five patients needed additional rescue neuroleptic treatment due to incomplete response. The mean dose of donepezil was 9.10 mg/day (median 10 mg/day). The overall NP1 improved significantly from 33.4 to 21.2 (p = 0.008). The mean CGIC at study's end was 3.0 (mild improvement). The cognitive scores did not change significantly. When compared to the patients who completed the study, patients who discontinued had higher mean scores on the irritability and agitation subscales of the NPI, they were older, and they had longer disease duration and lower MMSE mean scores. Three adverse events were recorded: one syncope causing a toe phalanx fracture and gastrointestinal complaints that resolved over time in two additional patients. Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors should be considered for the treatment of BPSD before neuroleptic treatment is instituted in AD patients with low levels of irritability and agitation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)313-317
Number of pages5
JournalClinical Neuropharmacology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2002


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Behavioral symptoms
  • Donezepil


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