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This study aimed to estimate the incidence and prevalence of overactive bladder (OAB) symptoms in the UK and analyse the use of anticholinergic/antispasmodic medications and other healthcare resources within UK general practice. Patients with a record of urinary frequency, urgency, nocturia, urge incontinence or irritable/unstable bladder between 1987 and 2004 were identified from the General Practice Research Database. Demographic characteristics, referrals, consultations, investigations and prescriptions for medications licensed for use in OAB were identified. Regression analyses were used to identify the factors determining switches between medications, referrals and use of healthcare resources. The overall prevalence of OAB-related symptoms was 3.87 per 1000 persons, with an incidence of 2.79 per 1000 person-years. Among 68,910 patients with OAB symptoms, 19,444 (28.2%) received anticholinergic medication, of whom 14,454 (74.3%) received one drug and 4055 (20.9%) received two medications sequentially. Overall, 59.1% of patients were referred to relevant secondary care specialities, 2.8% underwent urinary tests/investigations in primary care and 0.2% were seen by a continence nurse. Resource use was higher among patients who tried several different medications. In conclusion, this study suggests that OAB may be under-diagnosed in the UK and that current guidelines recommending use of anticholinergic medication, continence nurse consultations and urinary tests/investigations are inadequately followed.

Original publication




Journal article


Int J Clin Pract

Publication Date





949 - 958


Cholinergic Antagonists, Cohort Studies, Female, Health Resources, Humans, Incidence, Male, Middle Aged, Parasympatholytics, Patient Acceptance of Health Care, Practice Patterns, Physicians', Prevalence, Prospective Studies, Referral and Consultation, United Kingdom, Urinary Bladder, Overactive