A new study finds that men who take drugs like Atrovent, Combivent, and Spiriva to treat chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are more likely to suffer from acute urinary retention. The study is published in the May 23 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.
Urinary retention, a condition where the bladder feels full but a victim is unable to relieve themselves, can cause kidney damage if left untreated.
Atrovent, Combivent, and Spiriva are all part of a class of drugs called inhaled anticholinergics that ease breathing by preventing the airways from constricting. Spiriva is the most widely prescribed drug for COPD, used by more than 8 million patients globally since it was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2002. Atrovent is the second most commonly prescribed drug in this class. .
Inhaled anticholinergics have been tied to other side effects, including an increased risk of heart attack and stroke in COPD patients.
For this new study, researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto examined medical records from people in Ontario with COPD, aged 66 and older. Of those, 9,432 men and 1,806 women developed an inability to urinate.
The study found a statistically significant link between urinary retention in men who took inhaled anticholinergics versus those who didn’t. Men using the drugs for four weeks or more were 40 percent more likely to suffer from the conditions compared to those not using the medication. Those who were also suffering from an enlarged prostate were 80 percent more likely to have acute urinary retention if they were using inhaled anticholinergics.
The researchers didnâ€™t find an increased risk of the condition in women taking the medications
Unfortunately, it is very likely that COPD patients suffering from urinary retention wouldn’t connect the condition to their use of inhaled drugs.
“Physicians should highlight for patients the possible connection between urinary symptoms and inhaled respiratory medication use to ensure that changes in urinary flow (i.e., incomplete voiding, urinary incontinence, and decreased urinary flow) are reported to the physician,” the authors wrote.
COPD is a progressive lung disease, often caused by smoking, for which thereâ€™s no known cure. Symptoms include restricted breathing, secretion of mucus, oxidative stress and inflammation of the airway. The condition affects as many as 24 million Americans and kills more than 100,000 each year.