Amiodarone is used to treat irregular heartbeats. Treatment with it will be started by a heart specialist.
It is very important that you take amiodarone exactly as your doctor tells you to. You will be started on a high dose, for one week only. Your dose will then be reduced over the following two weeks to a maintenance dose.
Amiodarone is likely to cause your skin to become more sensitive to sunlight than normal. Use a sunscreen on the areas of your skin exposed to sunlight.
|Type of medicine||An anti-arrhythmic medicine|
|Used for||Irregular heartbeats|
|Also called||Cordarone X®|
|Available as||Tablets and injection|
Amiodarone is used to treat heart arrhythmias. An arrhythmia is an irregularity in your heartbeat which causes your heart to miss a beat, beat irregularly or beat at the wrong speed. Amiodarone is particularly helpful when other medicines used for the treatment of arrhythmias are unsuitable for some reason.
Amiodarone works by correcting the rhythm of your heart and by slowing your heart if it is beating too fast. It will be prescribed for you by a heart specialist doctor.
Before taking amiodarone
Some medicines are not suitable for people with certain conditions, and sometimes a medicine may only be used if extra care is taken. For these reasons, before you start taking amiodarone it is important that your doctor knows:
- If you have any heart problems other than your abnormal heart rhythm. In particular, you should let your doctor know if you have been diagnosed with heart failure.
- If you have problems with your thyroid.
- If you know you have low amounts of potassium in your blood.
- If you have a rare inherited blood disorder called porphyria.
- If you are pregnant or breast-feeding.
- If you are taking any other medicines. This includes any medicines you are taking which are available to buy without a prescription, such as herbal and complementary medicines.
- If you have ever had an allergic reaction to a medicine. It is particularly important that you tell your doctor if you know you are allergic to iodine.
How to take amiodarone
- Before you start the treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside the pack. It will give you more information about amiodarone and will provide you with a full list of the side-effects which you may experience from taking it.
- Your doctor will tell you what the right dose of amiodarone is for you, and this dose will be printed on the label of the pack of tablets to remind you about what the doctor said to you. It is usual to take 200 mg three times a day for the first week, then 200 mg twice a day for the second week. Your dose may then be reduced to 200 mg each day from the third week. It is very important that you take amiodarone exactly as your doctor tells you to. If you are not sure what dose to take, ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice.
- Try to take your doses of amiodarone at the same times each day, as this will help you to remember to take them regularly. You can take amiodarone either before or after meals.
- If you forget to take a dose, take it as soon as you remember (unless it is nearly time for your next dose, in which case leave out the missed dose). Do not take two doses together to make up for a forgotten dose.
Getting the most from your treatment
- Try to keep your regular appointments with your doctor. This is so your doctor can check your heart rhythm and monitor your progress. Your doctor will also want to do some blood tests while you are on amiodarone to check your liver and thyroid function.
- Your doctor is likely to recommend that you have an eyesight test each year. This is because you may develop deposits in your eyes. This is not likely to affect your vision, but if you are a driver you may find that you are dazzled by headlights if you drive at night.
- Taking amiodarone is likely to cause your skin to become more sensitive to sunlight than normal. Whenever you go outside on bright days (even if it is cloudy, or if it is only for a relatively short period of time), use a sunscreen that has a high sun protection factor and also protects your skin against UVA light. Do not use sunbeds.
- Do not drink grapefruit juice while you are on amiodarone. This is because a chemical in grapefruit juice can increase the amount of amiodarone in your bloodstream. This makes side-effects more likely.
- Treatment with amiodarone is usually long-term unless you experience an adverse effect. You should continue to take it unless you are advised otherwise by your doctor.
- If you are having an operation or any medical/dental treatment, remember to tell the person carrying out the treatment that you are taking amiodarone. It can interfere with some anaesthetics and increase the risk of side-effects.
- If you buy any medicines 'over-the-counter', always check with a pharmacist that they are suitable for you to take alongside your other medicines. Many medicines can interfere with the way amiodarone works.
Can amiodarone cause problems?
Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. The table below contains some of the most common ones associated with amiodarone. You will find a full list in the manufacturer's information leaflet supplied with your medicine. The unwanted effects often improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following continue or become troublesome.
|Very common amiodarone side-effects (these affect more than 1 in 10 people)||What can I do if I experience this?|
|Being dazzled by bright lights, blurred vision||If this happens, do not drive or use tools or machines|
|Feeling or being sick||Eat simple meals - avoid rich or spicy food. Taking your doses after you have eaten some food may help|
|Common amiodarone side-effects (these affect less than 1 in 10 people)||What can I do if I experience this?|
|Changes in the way things taste, shakiness, nightmares, difficulties sleeping, blue/grey marks on areas of your skin exposed to the sun||If any of these become troublesome, speak with your doctor|
|ECG changes, changes to thyroid or liver function tests||Your doctor will monitor for these|
Important: there have been some reports of amiodarone causing damage to the liver (hepatotoxicity) and damage to the lungs (pneumonitis). The symptoms of liver damage are yellowing of the skin or the whites of the eyes, and feeling very tired or sick. The symptoms of lung damage are a persistent cough and breathlessness. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should contact your doctor for advice straightaway.
If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to amiodarone, speak with your doctor or pharmacist for further advice.
How to store amiodarone
- Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
- Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.
Important information about all medicines
Never take more than the prescribed dose. If you suspect that you or someone else might have taken an overdose of this medicine, go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital. Take the container with you, even if it is empty.
This medicine is for you. Never give it to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.
Do not keep out-of-date or unwanted medicines. Take them to your local pharmacy which will dispose of them for you.
If you have any questions about this medicine ask your pharmacist.
Further reading & references
- Manufacturer's PIL, Cordarone® X 100 mg & 200 mg Tablets; Zentiva, The electronic medicines Compendium. Dated Februaury 2014.
- British National Formulary; 69th Edition (Mar 2015) British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, London
Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.
Prof Cathy Jackson