Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the commonest cause of dementia affecting older people. One of the therapeutic strategies aimed at ameliorating the clinical manifestations of Alzheimer's disease is to enhance cholinergic neurotransmission in relevant parts of the brain by the use of cholinesterase inhibitors to delay the breakdown of acetylcholine released into synaptic clefts. Tacrine, the first of the cholinesterase inhibitors to undergo extensive trials for this purpose, was associated with significant adverse effects including hepatotoxicity. Other cholinesterase inhibitors, including rivastigmine, with superior properties in terms of specificity of action and low risk of adverse effects, have now been introduced. Rivastigmine has received approval for use in 60 countries including all member states of the European Union and the USA.