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Treatment of the overactive bladder syndrome with muscarinic receptor antagonists: a matter of metabolites?

Antagonists of muscarinic acetylcholine receptors, such as darifenacin, oxybutynin, propiverine, solifenacin, tolterodine, and trospium, are the mainstay of the treatment of the overactive bladder syndrome. Fesoterodine is a newer drug awaiting regulatory approval. We briefly review the pharmacological activity of their metabolites and discuss how active metabolites may contribute to their efficacy and tolerability in vivo. Except for trospium, and perhaps solifenacin, all of the above drugs form active metabolites, and their presence and activity need to be taken into consideration when elucidating relationships between pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of these drugs. Moreover, the ratios between parent compounds and metabolites may differ depending on genotype of the metabolizing enzymes, concomitant medication, and/or drug formulation. Differential generation of active metabolites of darifenacin or tolterodine are unlikely to influence the overall clinical profile of these drugs in a major way because the active metabolites exhibit a similar pharmacological profile as the parent compound. In contrast, metabolites of oxybutynin and propiverine may behave quantitatively or even qualitatively differently from their parent compounds and this may have an impact on the overall clinical profile of these drugs. We conclude that more comprehensive studies of drug metabolites are required for an improved understanding of their clinical effects.

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