Medications That Cause Dry Mouth As an Adverse Effect in Older People: A Systematic Review and Metaanalysis

Edwin C.K. Tan, Duangjai Lexomboon, Gunilla Sandborgh-Englund, Ylva Haasum, Kristina Johnell

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24 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: To assess and quantify the risk of drug-induced dry mouth as a side effect in older people. 

Design: Systematic review and metaanalysis. 

Setting: A search of the literature was undertaken using Medline, Embase, Cochrane, Web of Science, and PubMed from 1990 to 2016. 

Participants: Older people (aged ≥60) who participated in intervention or observational studies investigating drug use as an exposure and xerostomia or salivary gland hypofunction as adverse drug outcomes. 

Measurements: Two pairs of authors screened titles and abstracts of studies for relevance. Two authors independently extracted data, including study characteristics, definitions of exposure and outcome, and methodological quality. For the metaanalyses, random-effects models were used for pooling the data and I2 statistics for exploring heterogeneity. 

Results: Of 1,544 potentially relevant studies, 52 were deemed eligible for inclusion in the final review and 26 in metaanalyses. The majority of studies were of moderate methodological quality. In the intervention studies, urological medications (odds ratio (OR) = 5.91, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 4.04–8.63; I2 = 62%), antidepressants (OR = 4.74, 95% CI = 2.69–8.32, I2 = 21%), and psycholeptics (OR = 2.59, 95% CI = 1.79–3.95, I2 = 0%) were significantly associated with dry mouth. In the observational studies, numbers of medications and several medication classes were significantly associated with xerostomia and salivary gland hypofunction. 

Conclusion: Medication use was significantly associated with xerostomia and salivary gland hypofunction in older adults. The risk of dry mouth was greatest for drugs used for urinary incontinence. Future research should develop a risk score for medication-induced dry mouth to assist with prescribing and medication management.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)76-84
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American Geriatrics Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018


  • dry mouth
  • medication
  • metaanalysis
  • systematic review
  • xerostomia

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