Anticholinergic Drugs for Overactive Bladder in Frail Older Patients: The Case Against
Urinary incontinence (UI) is a common and disabling problem among older people. Anticholinergic drugs (ADs) are a pharmacological option recommended for overactive bladder or mixed UI when non-pharmacological approaches have failed. However, UI is a more prevalent and complex condition in frail older people and to simply assume that AD actions are the same across all age groups would be wrong. This article reviews evidence for the efficacy and safety of these drugs, especially when prescribed for frail older people. Although ADs have a small but statistically significant benefit for UI in non-frail people, the vast majority choose to discontinue treatment because they feel that the beneficial effects do not outweigh the burden of taking the medication. Not only are the most frail older people more likely to experience adverse effects but there is also no evidence that these drugs are effective for UI. In addition, there is a mounting body of evidence that they impair cognitive function. The continued use of ADs in frail older people simply does not hold water.
Compliance with ethical standards
No sources of funding were used to assist in the preparation of this article.
Conflicts of interest
Henry J. Woodford has no conflicts of interest to declare.
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