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Original Articles

Donepezil for Psychotropic-Induced Memory Loss

Frederick M. Jacobsen, M.D., M.P.H., and Lillian Comas-Dí­az, Ph.D.

Published: October 31, 1999

Article Abstract

Background: Donepezil is an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor marketed for treatment of memory loss and behavioral deterioration associated with the acetylcholine deficit of Alzheimer’s disease. We investigated the utility and tolerability of donepezil in nongeriatric affective illness for treatment of psychotropic-induced memory loss, dry mouth, and constipation.

Method: Nondemented outpatients with stabilized DSM-IV affective illness took 5 mg/day of donepezil for 3 weeks and then increased to 10 mg/day in open trials. Self-rating scales of target symptoms were completed by patients before and 3 to 4 weeks after starting each dose condition. Patients who chose to continue donepezil therapy returned for clinical monitoring every 4 to 8 weeks.

Results: Eleven women and 11 men (mean ± SD age = 45.4 ± 8.5 years) completed donepezil trials. Nineteen patients with memory loss rated improvement while taking 5 mg/day of donepezil (p < .001); subsequently, 6 rated further improvement with 10 mg/day (p = .057). Donepezil, 5 mg/day, also reduced ratings of dry mouth (N = 16; p < .001) and constipation (N = 11; p < .05). Side effects included insomnia, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea; surprisingly, 2 bipolar patients became manic within hours of starting donepezil. Sixteen patients (72%) continued donepezil for an average of 7 months. Consideration of family histories suggested that donepezil response in affective illness may be an early indicator of vulnerability to dementia of the Alzheimer's type.

Conclusion: (1) Donepezil can reduce memory loss, dry mouth, and constipation in nongeriatric affective patients, but may trigger mania; and (2) long-term follow-up will reveal the predictive value for dementia of donepezil’s memory restoration in nongeriatric subjects.

Volume: 60

Quick Links: Dementia , Neurologic and Neurocognitive

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