Incontinence meds may impair thinking

Commonly used incontinence drugs may cause memory problems in older people, according to a new study funded by the National Institute on Aging. "Our message is to be careful when using these medicines," lead researcher Dr. Jack Tsao said. "It may be better to use diapers and be able to think clearly than the other way around."

The study, presented at the American Academy of Neurology meeting, began after researchers heard anecdotal reports of hallucinations and memory problems in patients who'd recently started incontinence meds. They organized a study, tracking a group of 870 patients for eight years, measuring cognitive ability yearly. Nearly 80 percent of the participants took anticholinergic meds, including asthma, Parkinson's, and incontinence drugs. Those using these meds had a 50 percent faster rate of cognitive decline compared with those who didn't--even when other risk factors were taken into consideration. The incontinence meds were among the most potent and commonly used in the study, the researchers said.

Pfizer's incontinence drug Detrol already has confusion and memory impairment listed among the side effects on its label. The company said that patients should always tell their doctors about any problems they experience while taking medication. "[T]he frequency (of cognitive problems) and the role of Detrol in their causation cannot be reliably determined," a spokesman said.

- read the Los Angeles Times story