Original Study| Volume 22, ISSUE 12, P2547-2552, December 2021

Centrally Acting Anticholinergic Drugs Used for Urinary Conditions Associated with Worse Outcomes in Dementia

Published:August 30, 2021DOI:



      To investigate the associations between central anticholinergic burden and mortality, hospitalization, and cognitive impairment in people with dementia prescribed anticholinergic drugs for urinary symptoms.


      Retrospective cohort study.

      Setting and Participants

      Patients diagnosed with dementia receiving anticholinergic medication for bladder conditions (N = 540), assembled from a large healthcare database.


      Central anticholinergic burden related to bladder drugs was estimated using the anticholinergic effect on cognition scale. Data were linked to national mortality and hospitalization data sources, and serially recorded Mini-Mental State Examination scores were used to investigate cognitive decline.


      Patients had a median survival of 4.1 years. Urinary drugs with a high anticholinergic effect on cognition score (tolterodine, oxybutynin) were associated with a 55% increased mortality risk (hazard ratio 1.55; 95% confidence interval 1.19‒2.01; P = .001) compared with drugs with low or no central anticholinergic burden (darifenacin, fesoterodine, trospium, mirabegron, solifenacin). Cognitive decline over a 24-month period around diagnosis was only detectable in the high central anticholinergic group, but there was no significant difference in cognitive trajectories between the high and low/no anticholinergic bladder drug groups. No increase of emergency hospitalization risk was seen in relation to central anticholinergic burden.

      Conclusions and Implications

      Urinary drugs with high central anticholinergic burden cause more harm than those acting peripherally and should be avoided in people with dementia. Further research is needed to test whether centrally acting anticholinergic agents in general cause worse outcomes in dementia.


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