Nine out of ten patients who discontinued their overactive
bladder (OAB) medication said it was because it didn’t work as
expected or they couldn’t tolerate it, according to research in the
May issue of the urology journal BJUI.
US researchers also discovered that smokers, men with enlarged
prostates and people with bladder infections are also significantly
more likely to stop taking prescription drugs for bladder
The team surveyed 6,577 adults who said in a National Family
Opinion survey that they had been prescribed medication for OAB in
the last 12 months and 82% responded.
They found that patients who had abandoned their medication were
much more likely to be bothered by OAB symptoms than those who had
persisted and more likely to have had a diagnosis for a condition
such as OAB or incontinence.
A quarter of the 5,392 who responded had discontinued one or
more of their OAB drugs in the last year, with the majority giving
multiple reasons. Just under half (46%) said the medication didn’t
work as expected, 23% learnt to get by without medication and 21%
reported side effects. Other reasons included cost, change of
insurance status, not wanting to use medication, advice from
healthcare professionals and health improvements. A quarter said
they had switched to a new medication.
“Encouraging people with long-term health conditions to persist
with medication is common and problematic” says Professor Linda
Brubaker from Loyola University, Chicago, who co-authored the paper
with urology colleagues from across the USA.
“Recent database studies suggest that the number of OAB patients
who stop taking their medication is much higher than clinical
trials would suggest.
“It is important to identify why people stop taking their
medication as persistence with medication is generally associated
with positive health outcomes and reductions in healthcare resource
use and costs.”
Key findings of the study included:
- Bothersome OAB symptoms were reported more frequently by
patients who had discontinued their medication: 10% more were
“quite a bit more” bothered about needing to urinate at night, 13%
more with urgency, 9% more with incontinence and 11% more with
- More patients in the discontinued medication group had a
medical diagnosis of OAB (10% more than the group who persisted),
incontinence (8% more), bladder infection (6% more) and urinary
retention (4% more).
- There were no statistically significant differences in sex, age
or race, household income, health insurance and prescription
insurance between the two groups and relatively minor differences
when it came to beliefs about OAB, including what was normal and
how it could be treated.
- A third of the people who had discontinued gave one reason for
stopping, a third gave two reasons and a third gave three
A second paper in the May issue of BJUI focuses on the
results of a six-month follow-up on the patients who were still
taking their medication at the time of the above study, based on an
84% response rate.
This showed that 66% were still taking their medication, 18% had
discontinued and 17% had switched medication in the intervening six
Researchers found that a number of factors increased the chances
of patients discontinuing their OAB medication, including:
- Being a current smoker (up 80%)
- Having an enlarged prostate (up 74%) or a bladder infection (up
- Believing that bladder medication caused severe side effects
(up 111%) or not knowing whether it did or not (up 76%).
- Being bothered “quite a bit more” by a sudden urge to urinate
with little or no warning (up 54%).
However, being on multiple prescriptions or having had an
episode of incontinence in the last week increased the odds of
“To our knowledge this is the first study to ask patients why
they discontinued their OAB medication” says Professor Brubaker.
“We believe that our findings point to the need for healthcare
providers to foster realistic expectations about how effective OAB
treatment will be and about any side effects.
“We also believe that healthcare providers should discuss
lifestyle changes, such as smoking cessation, urgency control
strategies and pelvic floor muscle training with OAB patients.
Research has shown that providing behavioural advice as well as
drugs to patients with OAB can improve both symptoms and
satisfaction with treatment.”