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Bethanechol: Is it still being prescribed for bladder dysfunction in women?

PURPOSE: Few medical treatment options exist for detrusor underactivity or urinary retention in women. Bethanechol, a cholinergic agonist, may improve detrusor contractility in these conditions; however, its clinical efficacy is limited. We sought to examine the patterns of Bethanechol use by physicians in an ambulatory care setting using a national database to determine if it is still prescribed for patients with bladder dysfunction.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: The National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NAMCS) database was queried for a sample of patient visits to office-based physicians from 2003-2013. Visits were included for women aged 18 years or older with diagnosed lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS), neurogenic bladder, or urinary retention based on ICD-9-CM codes. Visits in which Bethanechol was prescribed were analysed with descriptive statistics. Sampling weights were adjusted for nonresponders to yield an unbiased national estimate of ambulatory care visits.

RESULTS: Out of a weighted sample of 17 321 630 included patient visits, 132 281 (0.8%) visits included a prescription for Bethanechol. Patients prescribed Bethanechol had a mean age of 62.3 ± 2.1 and were predominantly Caucasian (67%) followed by African American (18%). The primary diagnosis associated with Bethanechol was atony of bladder (35%), urinary retention (20%), neurogenic bladder (18%), urinary incontinence (16%), and incomplete bladder emptying (10%). Visits were primarily for chronic conditions (63%). It was typically prescribed as a continued medication (79%) most often by urologists (92%) followed by internal medicine clinicians (8%).

CONCLUSIONS: Bethanechol continues to be prescribed in elderly women primarily for detrusor atony, urinary retention, or incomplete bladder emptying.

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