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Aricept Linked to Rhabdomyolysis and Rare Brain Disease


January 26, 2015 — The Alzheimer’s drug Aricept has been linked to two rare but serious, life-threatening side effects: rhabdomyolysis and neuroleptic malignant syndrome (NMS).

Aricept is manufactured by Pfizer and it is approved for the treatment of dementia related to Alzheimer’s disease.

Health Canada ordered drug-makers to add these side effects to the prescribing information, and issued a Safety Communication to warn:

“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.”

Rhabdomyolysis is a side effect of many other medications, and the risk may be higher for patients who are taking Aricept with statins (Lipitor, Zocor, etc.), antipsychotics (Zyprexa, Risperdal, etc.), and antidepressants in the SSRI or SNRI class (Prozac, Effexor, etc.).


Rhabdomyolysis is a disease that occurs when muscle fibers break down and release a protein into the bloodstream. This protein is too large to be filtered through the kidneys, which can cause kidney failure. Signs of rhabdomyolysis may include fever, muscle or joint pain, weakness, nausea, and dark (tea-like) urine.


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