What are antiarrhythmics?
Antiarrhythmic medications prevent and treat abnormal heartbeats (arrhythmias). Problems with your heart’s rhythm are caused by a disruption in the heart’s electrical system.
A drug called atropine may be prescribed if your heart beats too slowly (bradycardia).
Antiarrhythmic drugs may be prescribed if your heart beats too quickly. Antiarrhythmics include several classes of drugs which are listed below. In the list:
- Generic names are listed first.
- Canadian brand names are in brackets.
- Not every brand name is included.
If your prescription medication isn’t listed, your pharmacist is the best source for more information.
Sodium channel blockers slow the electrical impulse conduction in the heart muscle itself. Drugs in this group include:
- Disopyramide (Rhythmodan)
- Mixelitine (Teva-Mixelitine)
- Flecainide (Apo-Fleicanide, Mar-Flecianide)
Beta-blockers slow down your heart rate by slowing the electrical impulse conduction at the sinoatrial and atrioventricular node. Drugs in this group include:
- Atenolol (Apo-Atenol, Act-Atenolol)
- Metoprolol (Apotex)
- Esmolol (Brevibloc)
Potassium channel blockers slow down electrical impulse conduction in all heart cells. Drugs in this group include:
- Amiodarone – the most commonly used drug in this class.
- Dronedarone (Multaq)
- Sotalol (Pro-Sotalol, PMS-Sotalol)
Calcium channel blockers slow down your heart rate by slowing the electrical impulse conduction at the sinoatrial and atrioventricular nodes. Drugs in this group include:
- Diltiazem (Act-Diltiazem, Apo-Diltiazem)
- Verapamil (Isoptin, Apo-Verap)
What do antiarrhythmics do?
Arrhythmias 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.
Antiarrhythmics can also help other symptoms of arrhythmia such as:
- Heart palpitations
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
How do I take antiarrhythmics?
There isn’t a single medicine that can be used to treat every kind of arrhythmia. You may have to try a few different medications to find the one which works best for you.
Are there any interactions?
Medications – taken for other health conditions – can stop your arrhythmia medicine from working properly. If you are seeing a healthcare provider for any reason, be sure to tell them about your antiarrhythmic medication.
Always tell your doctor or pharmacist about any other medications you are taking. These include:
- Prescription drugs
- 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. Some side effects are:
- Sun sensitivity
- Urine retention
- Blurry vision
- Gastrointestinal upset
If you have side effects, talk to your pharmacist or healthcare provider.
Be aware that some antiarrhythmics make you more sensitive to the sun. Use sunscreen. If you get a sunburn, see your healthcare provider.
Be aware that Sotalol and some of the beta-blockers may aggravate asthma. If you have asthma, be sure to tell your healthcare providers about your condition.
Be aware that you shouldn’t stop taking your medication unless you’ve been told to by your healthcare provider.
Lifestyle changes can help
Healthy choices can help you manage heart disease. Get practical tips and advice from Heart & Stroke experts on how to get healthy. Learn how to:
Talk to your healthcare provider about the lifestyle changes that will benefit you the most.
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.
Living Well with Heart Disease is a comprehensive guide for heart patients like you, your family and friends to improve your success of recovery, understand the diagnosis and treatment you will receive and make healthy changes to your lifestyle.