Compare Aricept vs. Exelon

Head-to-head comparisons of medication uses, side effects, ratings, and more.

Aricept
(Donepezil)

Exelon
(Rivastigmine)

Treats dementia. Aricept (Donepezil) works for all stages of dementia caused by Alzheimer's, but it can be expensive.Treats dementia. Exelon (Rivastigmine) works for all stages of dementia caused by Alzheimer's, and the oral version is cheaper than the patch.
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Reviews & ratings
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Side effects
AriceptExelon
  • Nausea 13%
  • Diarrhea 10%
  • Sleep difficulty 8%
  • Muscle cramps 6%
  • Vomiting 5%
  • Fatigue 5%
  • Loss of appetite 5%
  • Dizziness 2%
  • Weight decrease 2%
  • Accident 1%
More Aricept side effects »
  • Nausea 35%
  • Vomiting 25%
  • Tremor 19%
  • Loss of appetite 14%
  • Any side effect 13%
  • Dizziness 10%
  • Diarrhea 8%
  • Abdominal pain 7%
  • Headache 5%
  • Indigestion 5%
More Exelon side effects »
How it works
AriceptExelon
Aricept (Donepezil) is an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor. Researchers don't know exactly how it helps treat Alzheimer's disease, but it prevents acetylcholine, a chemical in the brain, from being broken down too quickly. Acetylcholine is important in transmitting signals through nerves, a process that breaks down in Alzheimer's.Exelon (Rivastigmine) is an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor. Researchers don't know exactly how it helps treat Alzheimer's disease, but it prevents acetylcholine, a chemical in the brain, from being broken down too quickly. Acetylcholine is important in transmitting signals through nerves, a process that breaks down in Alzheimer's.
Type of medication
AriceptExelon
Anti-Alzheimer's
Cholinesterase inhibitor
Prescription only
Acetylcholinesterase inhibitor
Cholinesterase inhibitor
Prescription only
Available as
AriceptExelon
  • Pill
  • Dissolving tablet
  • Liquid
  • Pill
  • Liquid
  • Patch
Used for (click to learn more)
AriceptExelon
Risk factors for serious side effects
AriceptExelon
  • Taking anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs)
      Detailed Aricept (Donepezil) risks & warnings »
          • Parkinson's disease
          • Taking anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs)
          Detailed Exelon (Rivastigmine) risks & warnings »
          Pregnancy category
          AriceptExelon
          CFDA pregnancy category (Weigh risks vs. benefits)

          Research studies with animals found harmful effects on unborn babies. It hasn’t been properly studied in humans. The benefits might outweigh the risks even if you’re pregnant. Talk with your doctor.

          See the FDA package insert
          BFDA pregnancy category (Probably safe)

          Research studies with animals haven’t found a risk to unborn babies, but it hasn’t been properly studied in humans.

          See the FDA package insert
          Alcohol
          No specific alcohol-related info.No specific alcohol-related info.
          Food
          • Take Aricept (Donepezil) in the evening or before going to bed. Can be taken with or without food.
          • People on Aricept (Donepezil) have reported stomach ulcers which can also lead to bleeding in the stomach and intestines. Taking medications for inflammation, such as NSAIDs (ibuprofen or naproxen), can make this worse. Talk to your doctor if you vomit blood or material that looks like coffee grounds, or if your stool has blood or looks black and tarry. You can help prevent this by having some food or milk in your stomach when you take the medication.
          • If using the oral solution, take it after meals to prevent an upset stomach. It can be mixed with cold water, juice, or soda.
          • People on Exelon (Rivastigmine) have reported stomach ulcers which can also lead to bleeding in the stomach and intestines. Taking medications for inflammation, such as NSAIDs (ibuprofen or naproxen), can make this worse. Talk to your doctor if you vomit blood or material that looks like coffee grounds, or if your stool has blood or looks black and tarry. You can help prevent this by having some food or milk in your stomach when you take the oral medication.
          Kidneys and liver
          No specific kidneys and liver-related info.No specific kidneys and liver-related info.
          Sex
          No specific sex-related info.No specific sex-related info.
          Sleep
          No specific sleep-related info.No specific sleep-related info.
          Weight
          • People on Aricept (Donepezil) have reported weight loss. This is common. If this bothers you, talk to your doctor.
          • Let your doctor know if you get serious stomach problems, issues with movement (tremor), or weight loss.
          • People on Exelon (Rivastigmine) have reported nausea and vomiting, decreased appetite and weight loss. This usually happens when the medication is first started and when there are changes in the dose. Talk to your doctor if this is a concern, especially if you have to stop taking the medication for more than 3 days.
          Upsides and benefits
          AriceptExelon
          • Aricept (Donepezil) can be used to treat dementia caused by all stages of Alzheimer's.
          • It can be effective for treating behavioral problems related to dementia.
          • Available in three different forms: immediate release solution, a tablet, and an orally disintegrating tablet.
          • Can be used to treat dementia caused by all stages of Alzheimer's disease.
          • Exelon (Rivastigmine) slows the progression of Alzheimer's, including the person's cognitive function and ability to perform the usual daily living activities.
          • It also improves behavior disorders related to Alzheimer's.
          • Exelon (Rivastigmine) is available as a patch. This form causes fewer stomach problems (like nausea or vomiting).
          • The oral capsules are available as a generic medication.
          Downsides and risks
          AriceptExelon
          • Only available as a brand name medication, so it can be expensive.
          • Like other medications for dementia, it only slows down the progression of the disease; it doesn't stop or reverse it.
          • Aricept (Donepezil) is not a good choice for people with heart problems or a slow heart rate. It can slow the heart rate down and cause dizziness or fainting.
          • Like other medications for dementia, it only slows down the progression of the disease, but it doesn't stop or reverse it.
          • You need to take the oral capsules twice a day.
          • The patches are brand name only, so they can be expensive.
          Tips from our pharmacists for people taking the medication
          AriceptExelon
          • Take Aricept (Donepezil) in the evening or before going to bed. Can be taken with or without food.
          • Can cause increased stomach acid (and possibly heartburn), especially if you're also taking anti-inflammatory medications like NSAIDs.
          • Can cause nausea, diarrhea, and stomach cramps.
          • If you're taking the orally disintegrating tablet (ODT), place it on your tongue and let it dissolve, then drink a full cup of water.
          • The oral tablet shouldn’t be split, crushed, or chewed.
          • If you've missed seven doses in a row, you'll need to call your doctor about restarting the medication properly again.
          • Exelon (Rivastigmine) can cause nausea, vomiting, and dizziness.
          • Avoid activities that require full mental attention until you know how the drug affects you.
          • Let your doctor know if you get serious stomach problems, issues with movement (tremor), or weight loss.
          • If using the patch, make sure you know how to apply it. To prevent skin irritation, change the location of the patch every day.
          • If using the oral solution, take it after meals to prevent an upset stomach. It can be mixed with cold water, juice, or soda.
          Learn more
          More about AriceptSide effectsReviews & ratingsAlternativesFDA package insert
          More about ExelonSide effectsAlternativesFDA package insert