GENERIC NAME: amiodarone
BRAND NAME: Cordarone, Nextrone, Pacerone
DRUG CLASS AND MECHANISM: Amiodarone is an oral and injectable drug that is used to correct abnormal rhythms of the heart. (It is an antiarrhythmic medication.) Although amiodarone has many side effects, some of which are severe and potentially fatal, it has been successful in treating many arrhythmias when other antiarrhythmic drugs have failed. Amiodarone is considered a "broad spectrum" antiarrhythmic medication, that is, it has multiple and complex effects on the electrical activity of the heart which is responsible for the heart's rhythm. Among its most important electrical effects are:
- a delay in the rate at which the heart's electrical system "recharges" after the heart contracts (repolarization);
- a prolongation in the electrical phase during which the heart's muscle cells are electrically stimulated (action potential);
- a slowing of the speed of electrical conduction (how fast each individual impulse is conducted through the heart's electrical system);
- a reduction in the rapidity of firing of the normal generator of electrical impulses in the heart (the heart's pacemaker);
- a slowing of conduction through various specialized electrical pathways (called accessory pathways) which can be responsible for arrhythmias.
In addition to being an antiarrhythmic medication, amiodarone also causes blood vessels to dilate (enlarge). This effect can result in a drop in blood pressure. Because of this effect, it also may be of benefit in patients with congestive heart failure.
Amiodarone was discovered in 1961 and approved by the FDA in December 1985.
PRESCRIBED FOR: Amiodarone is approved for recurrent ventricular fibrillation and hemodynamically unstable ventricular tachycardia.
SIDE EFFECTS: Amiodarone has many side effects and several that are serious. This is only a partial list. Common side effects include:
- eye deposits,
- unsteady gait,
- weight loss,
- dizziness, and
- visual changes.
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