In the USA, two-thirds of sudden cardiac deaths (SCDs) are caused by sustained ventricular tachycardia and ventricular fibrillation. Implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) therapy has been demonstrated to decrease mortality caused by these arrhythmias, when used both for primary and secondary prevention. However, ICD use is expensive, has proarrhythmic effects and does not prevent ventricular arrhythmias. Antiarrhythmic drugs (AADs) can be used for acute or chronic therapy to prevent ventricular arrhythmias and SCD. Most commonly, AADs are often used in patients with an ICD who have recurrent ICD shocks due to ventricular arrhythmias. Class I AADs are used in patients with a structurally normal heart and are contraindicated in patients with structural heart disease. β-blockers have been demonstrated to be beneficial in preventing mortality and malignant tachyarrhythmias in postmyocardial infarction and congestive heart failure patients, and in patients who have an ICD. Amiodarone has a neutral effect on mortality, while other class III drugs may increase mortality in certain subgroups of patients. Dronedarone, a new class III drug, may reduce mortality, but sufficient data are not available to allow for its use in the prevention of malignant tachyarrhythmias. Few drugs that are not classified as AADs can also prevent arrhythmias, via their beneficial effects on cardiovascular remodeling. These non-ADDs have delayed and indirect effects, which are mediated by the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system and lipid metabolism - n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (fish oil), and statins, and can thus can reduce the likelihood of future malignant ventricular arrhythmias in patients with coronary artery disease or congestive heart failure. The role of chronic drug therapy alone for primary and secondary prevention of SCD is less than desirable because of proarrhythmic and adverse side effects. The non-ADDs are well tolerated and have no proarrhythmic actions, thus their benefit could outweigh risks, although currently there are no concrete data to suggest this.
- antiarrhythmic drugs
- sudden cardiac death
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
- Molecular Medicine