What is this medication?
Problems with your heart’s rhythm stem from a disruption in your heart’s electrical system. Antiarrhythmics prevent and treat abnormal heartbeats (arrhythmias).
Antiarrhythmic drugs include:
- Amiodarone (Cordarone®)
- Generic names are listed first.
- Canadian brand names are in brackets.
- This list doesn’t include every brand name.
- If your prescription isn’t listed, your pharmacist is the best source for more information.
What does it do?
If your your heart beats too slowly, you may be treated with a pacemaker.
If your heart beats too fast, antiarrhythmic drugs may be prescribed. This is a broad category with several classes of drugs, including:
- Sodium channel blockers
- Potassium channel blockers
- Calcium channel blockers
Here’s how they work:
- Rhythm disorders are caused by a disruption in your heart’s electrical system.
- Antiarrhythmics slow down the electrical impulses in your heart so it can beat regularly again.
- Depending on the drug, they do this in one of two ways:
- Slow down your heart rate. These include calcium channel blockers.
- Slow down your heart’s electrical impulses. These include potassium channel blockers.
Both approaches bring your heart rate into a more healthy range.
These drugs may also ease other symptoms of arrhythmia including:
- Heart palpitations
- Lightheadedness or fainting
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
How do I take it?
There is no one medicine to treat every kind of arrhythmia.
Be Aware: You may have to try a few different medications to see which one works best for you.
Are there any interactions?
Some medications can stop your heart medicine from working properly. They may even cause other health problems.
Be Aware: Some antiarrhythmics make you more sensitive to the sun. Use sunscreen. If you get a serious sunburn, see your healthcare provider.
Always tell your doctor or pharmacist about any other medications you are taking. These include:
- Non-prescription drugs
- Creams or ointments
- Over-the-counter or natural health products
- Alternative therapies
- Vitamins, minerals or supplements
- Herbal remedies
- Homeopathic medicines
- Traditional remedies, such as Chinese medicines
- Amino acids or essential fatty acids
Are there any side effects?
Like any medication, antiarrhythmics can cause side effects.
Be Aware: Don’t stop taking your medication unless advised by your healthcare provider.
If you have side effects, talk to your pharmacist or healthcare provider.
Lifestyle changes that can also help
There are two ways to control and manage your heart health: medication and lifestyle.
Medication can help you control heart disease and high blood pressure, but it cannot cure it.
A healthy lifestyle can help you keep medication to a minimum.
Visit heartandstroke.ca/get-healthy. Learn how to keep your heart healthy with current information and advice from Heart and Stroke Foundation experts.
Talk to your healthcare provider about the most beneficial lifestyle goals for you.
Your healthcare provider or pharmacist are your best sources of information. You can also learn more about medications at any of these trusted sites.
Health Canada - Drugs and Health Products
Provides health and medical information for Canadians to maintain and improve their health.
Learn more about:
- Safe Use of Medicines
- Safety and Effectiveness of Generic Drugs
- Buying drugs over the Internet
- Drug Product Database
- MedEffect Canada
Provides safety alerts, public health advisories, warnings and recalls.
Your ministry of health also offers health resources in your province or territory. For example, Ontario’s MedsCheck program provides free pharmacist consultations. And British Columbia’s Senior Healthcare web page provides information about important health programs.