The Devil’s Drug

Woe to the CHDer who develops an arrhythmia. (irregular heart beat) The problem is, it seems we all develop one sooner or later, and the choices we have to combat it are limited. Certainly pacemakers and ICDs are available, but those are expensive. So is an ablation; so often, we start with a drug regimen.

One of the best Antiarrhythmia drugs is Amiodarone, because it can control the irregular beats fairly well and there is less of a chance of a proarrhythmia. A proarrhythmia is a new or more frequently occurring arrhythmia that is triggered by the use of antiarrhythmia drugs. It’s diabolical – using the drugs that can calm down an irregular heartbeat can actually cause more irregular beats!

Oh, boy.

Amiodarone is pretty good about not causing proarrhythmia, but that is probably it’s one positive factor. Dr. Rich is convinced that Satan himself invented it – it’s that nasty!

For the drug to become effective, it has to saturate the body. So at first you are given a “loading dose” – a high dosage of the medication to get the patient to the proper level of the drug in their blood quickly.

Most of the time a drug is eliminated through the bloodstream, taken to the kidneys where it is filtered out, and the eliminated through the body’s natural waste disposal system. Not Amiodarone, no sir. The only way you get rid of it is by getting rid of cells. That’s a naturally occurring process, but it is slow and you can’t speed it up. Sometimes it takes a year for the Amio to completely clear your system.

And while it is in your system, it sets up shop in every organ of your body.

Possible liver damage? Yep!

Possible lung damage? Got you covered!

Thyroid damage? Amio is on top of that, too! In fact, you know that rough spot on the bottom of your left foot… well, you probably can’t blame Amiodarone for that one.

But every year you are on the drug, you’ll be visiting your eye doctor for an examination. Not the usual eye exam, mind you, but he’ll be looking for deposits in your eyes caused by the drug.

And you’ll have a lung function test every year, also. You’ll sit in a small walled in area that looks like a phone booth with a plastic tube in front of you. You’ll be asked blow as hard as possible into the tube, blow, blow, come’on empty your lungs! Then you’ll inhale as much as possible; you’ll hold your breath then blow it out – several different lung exercises. You’ll want to bring a friend with you – there’s no reason that you can’t drive home yourself, but you’ll be exhausted from the exercises. And they’ll repeat this test every year to make sure that your lungs aren’t being damaged by the Amiodarone.

If you haven’t guessed, this stuff isn’t very usuer friendly. There are newer drugs available that do not cause proarrhythmia (Yay!) and do not have the side effects of Amio (Yay again!) but isn’t as effective. (Aw, man!)

So if this drug is recommended to you by your doctor, you probably do need it. But have a long, honest discussion with your physician about the benefits and side effects of Amiodarone.

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7 Responses to “The Devil’s Drug”

  1. Lisa@All That and a Box of Rocks Says:

    Eli took Amiodarone from age 6 months until just before his 3rd birthday. I was so very happy when I gave him that last dose! Such a scary drug, but so thankful for its effectiveness…

    Blood work, lung tests, eye specialists….ay yiy yiy! We did all those faithfully, and even though my fat little baby needed an adult size daily dose…no side effects ever!

    I can’t tell you how many times the pharmacist complained to his PC that ‘he was going to kill that baby with that dose’. Yikes!

    When given to babies, they crush it and make a suspension liquid. Well, Eli’s dose was too big to do that, so they had me crush it and mix it with a tsp of warm water. We soon discovered (once the teeth came in) that Eli would just chew that tablet. And chew he did, without a complaint, daily for over 2 years. Can you imagine?!?!?

  2. Chris A Says:

    Our 17 yr old daughter started taking Amiodarone almost 3 yrs ago. Her arrhythmias could only be controlled by Amio. A year or so later the doc tried to lower the dose and a month later her arrhythmias were back with a vengence. So her dose was increased to the origional level. She did not have any side effects until about 3 months ago…she is now hypothyroid. She was given medicine for her thyroid. I have always referred to Amio as her “nasty” drug. I appreciate your information. As far as I remember I had never been told about the possibility of deposits in eyes caused by the drug.

    with Hope,
    ~ Chris A ~ mom of 17 yr old Becca TOF, PA pulmonary hypertension, 4 heart surgeries, 20+ heart caths, pacemaker/ICD, 43 pills a day, 02 at night and above 3000ft, has been evlauated for heart lung transplant but at this time can be medically managed.

  3. Flip the Switch « Adventures of a Funky Heart! Says:

    […] By Steve Nobody likes Amiodarone, not even the doctors who prescribe it. I recently wrote a post about it and all the side effects it can cause. A newer drug, Dronedarone, is usually recommended for younger […]

  4. It isn’t working « Adventures of a Funky Heart! Says:

    […] fact, the last time I wrote about Amiodarone, I was accused of using “scare tactics” to get my point across. I wouldn’t do […]

  5. Gregorio Cayouette Says:

    This was a very interesting article. It’s nice in today’s online world when someone takes the time to write a well written post that convey’s real writing ability. Thanks again for the good read! AP Economics is a great course that I teach, but alot of my ap economic students could use tutoring. AP economics isn’t as difficult as you may think, but it does keep the students busy

  6. The Funky Heart’s Rules « Adventures of a Funky Heart! Says:

    […] way I do. Not that long ago I was accused of using “scare tactics” after I wrote a post listing the side effects of Amiodarone. But I had links to other articles and to a blog written by an Electrophysiologist (a doctor who […]

  7. Agnès Says:

    Amiodarone truly is Satan’s offspring as a drug. So tempting, it works so, so well for arrythmia. I have taken it for almost 5 years in heavy doses. Now I’m trying to control a very crazy self-destructive thyroid for some months.
    But whenever I have palpitations I still have a longing for amiodarone…

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