Background: Maintaining continuous pharmacological treatment of patients with dementia is often difficult. In the current study we surveyed the discontinuation of donepezil, a cholinesterase inhibitor, for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease in a Japanese geriatric outpatient clinic in a university hospital.
Methods: Using a retrospective chart review from 1 July 2003 to 30 June 2005, prescriptions of donepezil and the reasons for discontinuing the prescription in a university hospital were determined. The severity of dementia was evaluated by the clinical dementia rating (CDR).
Results: Out of 264 patients, 140 (53.1%) discontinued taking donepezil during the two-year observation period. The mean age of the continued group and the discontinued group did not differ significantly (79.5 ± 6.7, 79.8 ± 6.4, respectively). Kaplan-Meier analysis showed that the patients with more severe cognitive impairment (CDR score = 3) discontinued donepezil earlier and more frequently. The reasons for discontinuation were a change in the doctors treating the patients (n = 71), ineffectiveness (n = 16), gastrointestinal side-effects (n = 11), and others (n = 41). In patients with CDR = 1 or 2, changes of doctors were the most frequent reason for discontinuation. However, in patients with CDR = 3, ineffectiveness of the medication was the major reason for discontinuation.
Conclusion: Donepezil was frequently discontinued, and the rate of discontinuation was higher in patients with advanced dementia.