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Anticholinergics are a type of drug, less commonly prescribed now, used to treat the symptoms of Parkinson's.

They block the action of acetylcholine, a chemical messenger that helps to send messages from your nerves to your muscles.

There are branded and unbranded anticholinergics available. These include:

  • orphenadrine (Biorphen, Disipal, unbranded form)
  • procyclidine (Arpicolin, Kemadrin, unbranded form)
  • trihexyphenidyl (Broflex, unbranded form)

Over the years I will take newer and stronger types of medication. I know that some will make me feel sick and a lot of adjustments will need to be made along the way.

Keith, diagnosed in 2001

Anticholinergics may be useful in the early stages of Parkinson's when symptoms are mild. They tend to improve tremor more than slowness and stiffness.

They can be prescribed alone in the early stages, before the drugĀ levodopa is necessary. Although they can be used in conjunction with levodopa or a glutamate antagonist too.

Anticholinergics can be used to reduce excess saliva.

They can also reduce bladder contractions that can cause a strong, frequent urge to urinate.

Side effects and problems of anticholinergics

Another reason these drugs are not a first choice for treating Parkinson's are their side effects. Some people may experience confusion, a dry mouth, constipation and blurred vision when taking anticholinergics.

Anticholinergics may interfere with levodopa absorption in the small bowel, which reduces the effectiveness of Madopar or Sinemet, forms of the drug levodopa.

Anticholinergics are not usually prescribed to older people with Parkinson's because there is an increased risk of memory loss and, in men, problems urinating.

More information about anticholinergics

Read our Drug treatments for Parkinson's booklet.

Or visit the electronic Medicines Compendium (eMC) website for independent, up to date information about these medicines: