Common Alzheimer’s Drug Linked to Potentially Life-threatening Conditions

Rob Wipond
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The popular Alzheimer’s and dementia drug Aricept (donepezil) has been linked to two rare but potentially serious or fatal conditions, according to an alert issued to physicians and the public by Health Canada. The warnings about rhabdomyolysis and neuroleptic malignant syndrome have been added to the drug’s label.

“Aricept is one of the most common drugs prescribed to Alzheimer patients,” reported CBC News.

“Rhabdomyolysis is a rare condition involving the breakdown of muscle tissue,” stated the Health Canada alert. “Rhabdomyolysis can cause serious and sometimes fatal abnormal heart rhythms, kidney damage and kidney failure, but is generally treatable if recognized promptly.”

“[Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome] is a very rare life-threatening disorder characterized by a chemical imbalance that affects the nervous, muscular and cardiovascular systems,” stated the alert. It can lead to muscular rigidity, altered mental status, autonomic dysfunction, stupor, catatonia or death. Occurences of the syndrome are also associated with antipsychotic drugs.

CBC News reported that John Breitner, the Canada research chair on dementia at the Douglas Institute in Montreal, said that people should not “overreact” to the warning.

Alzheimer’s drug Aricept (donepezil) – New warnings on the serious risks of muscle breakdown and of a neurological disorder (Health Canada Alert, January 21, 2015)

Alzheimer drug Aricept subject of new Health Canada warnings (CBC News, January 23, 2015)

4 COMMENTS

  1. Wiki says,”The precise mechanism of action of donepezil in patients with Alzheimer’s disease is not fully understood. Certainly Alzheimer’s disease involves a substantial loss of the elements of the cholinergic system and it is generally accepted that the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are related to this cholinergic deficit, particularly in the cerebral cortex and other areas of the brain.[7][8] It is note that the hippocampal formation play an important role in the processes of control of attention, memory and learning. Just the severity of the loss of cholinergic neurons of the central nervous system (CNS) has been found to correlate with the severity of cognitive impairment.”

    I know I dealt with unethical doctors who had me on major drug interactions which are known to cause “anticholinergic intoxication” poisoning. And I know I was made sicker than hell on the drugs I was on. And since “The precise mechanism of action of donepezil in patients with Alzheimer’s disease is not fully understood.” Perhaps ignorantly messing the the CNS of other human beings is not actually a wise or ethical thing for the medical community to be doing?

    • “It is note that the hippocampal formation play an important role in the processes of control of attention, memory and learning. Just the severity of the loss of cholinergic neurons of the central nervous system (CNS) has been found to correlate with the severity of cognitive impairment.”

      Which part of the brain do the neuroleptics (or psych drugs) decrease the size of? And should these drugs actually be being given to children, or the elderly, or anyone?

  2. “John Breitner, the Canada research chair on dementia at the Douglas Institute in Montreal, said that people should not “overreact” to the warning.”
    Because “overrreaction” to the concerns of drug safety is the biggest problem in today’s medicine. I mean prescriptions for all kinds of psych drugs are falling dramatically after these rare side effects are trumpeted loud to everyone in prime time TV, right? Oh no, that’s not what’s happening. Funny…