Tolterodine is an antimuscarinic (anticholinergic) agent. It works by blocking a chemical that causes contractions of the bladder.
Tolterodine is a competitive muscarinic receptor antagonist. Both urinary bladder contraction and salivation are mediated via cholinergic muscarinic receptors. After oral administration, tolterodine is metabolized in the liver, resulting in the formation of the 5-hydroxymethyl derivative, a major pharmacologically active metabolite. The 5-hydroxymethyl metabolite, which exhibits an antimuscarinic activity similar to that of tolterodine, contributes significantly to the therapeutic effect. Both tolterodine and the 5-hydroxymethyl metabolite exhibit a high specificity for muscarinic receptors, since both show negligible activity or affinity for other neurotransmitter receptors and other potential cellular targets, such as calcium channels. Tolterodine has a pronounced effect on bladder function. The main effects of tolterodine are an increase in residual urine, reflecting an incomplete emptying of the bladder, and a decrease in detrusor pressure, consistent with an antimuscarinic action on the lower urinary tract.