Restore your bladder, LOSE YOUR MIND: Oxybutynin bladder drug found to drastically increase the risk of dementia

A common drug for urinary incontinence may increase the risk of dementia, according to a recent study. Researchers said the bladder drug oxybutynin, which helps relieve muscle spasms that trigger overactive bladder syndrome, was consistently shown to raise the risk of dementia and impaired cognitive function when taken orally. According to the study, 16 percent of U.S. adults suffer overactive bladder syndrome. However, only nine percent of patients received a neurologic exam at the time of drug prescription, despite the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s recommendation that patients taking oxybutynin be closely evaluated for side effects that target the central nervous system. Furthermore, researchers found that the drug was prescribed to 27.3 percent of U.S. patients with overactive bladder syndrome aged 65 years and older, despite the availability of more appropriate treatments.

A team of international health experts pooled data from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey and examined 1,968 patients. Researchers found that people who took the pill for more than three years had a 54 percent increased risk of developing dementia within a decade compared with those who did not take the medication. Data also showed that oxybutynin-use has increased by 31 percent in five years in the U.K. The study also revealed that some 1.7 million oxybutynin prescriptions were issued in the U.K. in 2015 alone. Oxybutynin accounted for 26 percent of all medications prescribed for urinary incontinence in the same year, according to the researchers.

“Doctors need to look closely at the levels of prescribing. Despite evidence of side effects, physicians are not commonly checking for cognitive effects in those using these medications,” said lead researcher Dr Daniel Pucheril of Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit in an article in

Outside expert Professor Marcus Drake, a urologist at Bristol University, stressed on the drug’s low price as a main contributor for its increasing use. “Frankly my view is that this drug should not be prescribed at all. It is not well tolerated, it is not as effective and it carries these risks. Oxybutynin is the one of the class that we should avoid when it comes to dementia and memory risk. But it’s very cheap, so instead of focusing on the safety there is a balance that has arisen where doctors try it and if there are no immediate problems they keep using it,” Prof. Drake said in the same Daily Mail article.

The findings were presented at the annual European Association of Urology conference in London.

Previous studies highlight the risk between bladder drug, dementia

A 2015 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine revealed that oxybutynin, a commonly prescribed anti-cholinergic drug for overactive bladder disease, was associated with higher odds of dementia onset in patients. Researchers at the University of Washington examined  3,434 otherwise healthy patients aged 65 years and older and found that those who regularly took five mg of oxybutynin for more than three years had an increased risk of developing dementia. However, researchers said the study did not demonstrate a causal relationship between oxybutynin and dementia.

“However, it is still unclear whether this is the case and if so, whether the effects seen are a result of long-term use or several episodes of short-term use. More robust research is needed to understand what the potential dangers are, and if some drugs are more likely to have this effect than others. We would encourage doctors and pharmacists to be aware of this potential link and would advise anyone concerned about this to speak to their GP before stopping any medication,” said outside expert Dr. Doug Brown from the U.K.’s Alzheimer’s Society in an article in

Another study showed that taking oxybutynin in combination with other drugs such as antihistamines and antidepressants may raise the risk of dementia onset in elderly patients. The findings were published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

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