Alzheimer’s Drug Aricept Linked to Serious Side EffectsJanuary 26, 2015 — The label on Aricept to warn about the risk of muscle breakdown (rhabdomyolysis) and a brain disease known as neuroleptic malignant syndrome (NMS).

Aricept (donepezil) is a prescription medication for the treatment of dementia caused by Alzheimer’s disease.

Health Canada issued the following warning after a safety review:

“Rhabdomyolysis and NMS were reported to occur independently in association with donepezil use; however rhabdomyolysis may be the result of complications of NMS. Rhabdomyolysis was most often reported to occur when donepezil therapy was started or the dose increased.”

Health Canada recommends that doctors assess patients for risk-factors for rhabdomyolysis. Many other medication are known to increase the risk of this disease, including cholesterol-lowering statins (Lipitor, Crestor, etc.), antipsychotics (Risperdal, Seroquel, etc.), SSRI antidepressants (Zoloft, Prozac, etc.), and more.

More information about the side effects:

  • Rhabdomyolysis: This rare condition involves the breakdown of muscle tissue, which release a protein into the bloodstream that clogs the kidneys. It can cause serious, sometimes fatal abnormal heart rhythms, kidney damage, and kidney failure. Symptoms include fever, muscle or joint pain, weakness, nausea, and dark (tea-like) urine.
  • Neuroleptic malignant syndrome: This rare but life-threatening disorder is caused by a chemical imbalance that affects the nervous, muscular, and cardiovascular systems. Symptoms include high fever, muscle stiffness or rigidity, mental changes including delirium and agitation, and irregular heartbeat and pulse.

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