Clinical pharmacology of rivastigmine: a new-generation acetylcholinesterase inhibitor for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease

Clin Ther. Jul-Aug 1998;20(4):634-47. doi: 10.1016/s0149-2918(98)80127-6.


Rivastigmine (ENA 713, or carbamoylatine) is an acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitor with brain-region selectivity and a long duration of action. Both preclinical studies and studies in human volunteers have shown that rivastigmine induces substantially greater inhibition of AChE in the central nervous system (CNS) compartment than in the periphery (40% inhibition of central AChE compared with 10% inhibition of plasma butylcholinesterase in healthy volunteers). Moreover, rivastigmine preferentially inhibits the G1 enzymatic form of AChE, which predominates in the brains of patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD). Evidence from animal studies also suggests that rivastigmine is a more potent inhibitor of AChE in the cortex and hippocampus, the brain regions most affected by AD. Absorption of rivastigmine is rapid and almost complete (>96% of the administered dose). Extensive, saturable first-pass metabolism, however, leads to bioavailability of approximately 35% of the administered dose and nonlinear pharmacokinetics. The principal metabolite of rivastigmine has at least 10-fold lower activity against AChE compared with the parent drug. Rivastigmine is completely metabolized; the major route of elimination of the metabolites is renal. Although patients with AD demonstrate 30% to 50% higher plasma concentrations of rivastigmine and its principal metabolite than do healthy elderly patients, there is no evidence of drug accumulation, which is consistent with rivastigmine's short pharmacokinetic half-life. Distribution of rivastigmine into the CNS is extensive, and inhibition of AChE in the cerebrospinal fluid is detectable 1.2 hours after oral dosing in both healthy volunteers and patients with AD. Peak activity is reached somewhat more slowly in AD patients than in healthy subjects, and the inhibitory effects have a longer duration (6.0 vs 2.4 hours and 12.0 vs 8.5 hours, respectively). Rivastigmine is inactivated during the process of interacting with and inhibiting AChE, and, in contrast to other AChE inhibitors, the hepatic cytochrome P-450 (CYP-450) system is not involved in the metabolism of rivastigmine. This reduces its propensity to interact with drugs metabolized by specific CYP-450 isoenzymes. Consistent with rivastigmine's pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic profiles, Phase II and III trials have demonstrated that the drug is a well-tolerated and effective treatment for AD.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / drug therapy*
  • Animals
  • Carbamates / pharmacokinetics
  • Carbamates / pharmacology*
  • Cholinesterase Inhibitors / pharmacokinetics
  • Cholinesterase Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Neuroprotective Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • Neuroprotective Agents / pharmacology*
  • Phenylcarbamates*
  • Rivastigmine


  • Carbamates
  • Cholinesterase Inhibitors
  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • Phenylcarbamates
  • Rivastigmine