Extended-Release Medications

Special Coatings Help Extended-Release Medications Last Longer


Extended-release medications have special coatings or ingredients that control how fast the drug is released from the pill into your body. This may allow you to take certain medications only once or twice a day, instead of more often. Some extended-release medications have the letters "XL" or "LA" or "XR" in their name. Extended-release medications are also known as long-acting medications.

Examples of Extended-Release Medication

Detrol LA (tolterodine) is a medication used to treat overactive bladder.

Specifically, Detrol LA is used to help control urge incontinence, urinary frequency, and urinary urgency. Urge incontinence refers to a strong desire to urinate that may lead to accidental wetting. Urinary frequency refers to the need to urinate many times during the day. Urinary urgency refers to an urgent need to urinate. Without appropriate treatment, these symptoms can become a constant bother; thus, Detrol LA was formulated as an extended release preparation to help control overactive bladder during a 24-hour period. Detrol LA is a newer type of antimuscarinic medication and blocks muscarinic receptors in the detrusor muscle thus preventing detrusor overactivity, which is usually the cause of overactive bladder. Because this medication is more selective in the muscarinic receptors that it blocks--pretty much only affecting the receptors in the bladder--Detrol LA has fewer adverse effects than those of older antimuscarinic drugs.


Effexor XR (venlafaxine) is a medication used to treat depression and anxiety disorders.  Effexor XR is a once-a-day treatment available as an extended-release form. Effexor is a bicyclic antidepressant, or a serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI), that increases the levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain which helps relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Effexor XR can cause dizziness or drowsiness, and people who take this medication should exhibit caution when driving or operating heavy machinery. As always, if you feel bad due to adverse effects related to Effexor XR or any other medication, please notify your physician immediately.

Toprol XL (metoprolol) is a medication used to treat high blood pressure. Toprol XL is a beta-blocker that works on the heart and circulatory system to relieve high blood pressure. Toprol XL is also used to treat angina and prevent heart attacks. People with heart block, heart failure, sick sinus syndrome, slow heart rate (bradycardia) and other serious heart problems should not take Toprol XL. Toprol XL is extended release and should be taken once a day either right before or after a meal. In certain people, Toprol XL can cause dizziness, confusion, shortness of breath or light-headedness. If you experience any of these symptoms, inform your physician immediately.

Selected Sources

Eisendrath SJ, Cole SA, Christensen JF, Gutnick D, Cole M, Feldman MD. Depression. In: Feldman MD, Christensen JF, Satterfield JM. eds. Behavioral Medicine: A Guide for Clinical Practice, 4e. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2014. 

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