Anticholinergic drugs versus other medications for overactive bladder syndrome in adults

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2007 Oct 17;2007(4):CD003190. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD003190.pub4.


Background: Overactive bladder syndrome is defined as "urgency with or without urge incontinence, usually with frequency and nocturia". It is a common condition with significant economic and quality of life implications. While the condition's pathophysiology remains to be fully elucidated, pharmacotherapy is the main treatment option. Despite uncertainty as to drug treatment of choice, anticholinergics are increasingly being used in primary and secondary care settings. This review compares anticholinergic drugs with other types or classes of drugs for treating overactive bladder syndromes.

Objectives: To compare anticholinergic drugs with other types or classes of drugs for treating overactive bladder symptoms.

Search strategy: We searched the Cochrane Incontinence Group Specialised Trials Register (searched 20 December 2006) and the reference lists of relevant articles. No language or other limits were imposed.

Selection criteria: All randomised and quasi-randomised controlled trials comparing anticholinergic drugs with other drugs for the treatment of overactive bladder symptoms. At least one arm of the study used an anticholinergic drug and at least one other arm used a non-anticholinergic drug.

Data collection and analysis: Two reviewers assessed the identified studies for eligibility and methodological quality and independently extracted data from the included studies. Data analysis was performed using RevMan software (version 4.2.8).

Main results: Twelve trials were included in the review. There were seven crossover trials and five parallel group studies. For the comparisons between anticholinergic drugs with tricyclic antidepressants, alpha adrenergic agonists, afferent nerve inhibitors, and calcium channel blocker a single trial was identified for each. Nine trials compared flavoxate with anticholinergics. There was no evidence of a difference in cure rates between anticholinergics and flavoxate. Adverse effects were more frequent in anticholinergic groups versus flavoxate groups (RR 2.28 95% CI 1.45 to 3.56). There was no strong evidence to favour either anticholinergic drugs or the comparators.

Authors' conclusions: Many of the drugs considered in trials in this review are no longer used in clinical practice (and this includes the most commonly tested - flavoxate). There is inadequate evidence as to determine whether any of the available drugs are better or worse than anticholinergic medications. Larger randomised controlled trials in clinical settings are required to further establish the role of these medications in the management of overactive bladder syndrome.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic alpha-Antagonists / therapeutic use
  • Adult
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Cholinergic Antagonists / therapeutic use*
  • Dopamine Uptake Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Flavoxate / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Lidocaine / therapeutic use
  • Nocturia / drug therapy
  • Parasympatholytics / therapeutic use
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Urinary Bladder, Overactive / drug therapy*


  • Adrenergic alpha-Antagonists
  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Cholinergic Antagonists
  • Dopamine Uptake Inhibitors
  • Parasympatholytics
  • Flavoxate
  • Lidocaine