If lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, reducing stress, and managing disease do not decrease the symptoms of your arrhythmia, your doctor may prescribe one or more medicines to help you control the arrhythmia or the underlying cause of the arrhythmia. Medicines will not eliminate or cure your arrhythmia, but for many people the relief they provide in curbing or reducing symptoms is of great help.
Antiarrhythmic drugs can treat both symptomatic arrhythmia and premature heartbeats. They work by suppressing the abnormal electrical impulses of your heart’s tissues and slowing down the transmission of these impulses as they are conducted through the heart.
These meds can be delivered intravenously or taken orally. In many cases, they are needed daily and indefinitely, especially for long-term care and treatment of the condition.
Some commonly prescribed antiarrhythmic drugs include:
- amiodarone (Cardarone, Pacerone)
- disopyramide (Norpace)
- dronedarone (Multaq)
- flecainide (Tambocor)
- propafenone (Rythmol)
- tocainide (Tonocarid)
A potential side effect of this medication is proarrhythmia, the development of new or recurrence of pre-existing arrhythmias. These new arrhythmias can make treatment more difficult, and in some cases, the new arrhythmias may actually be worse than the one you’re trying to treat with the medicine.
Calcium Channel Blockers
Calcium channel blockers, sometimes called “calcium antagonists,” help slow an accelerated heart rate. That’s why they are especially effective in people who have tachycardias. Calcium channel blockers are also prescribed for the treatment of high blood pressure and angina (chest pain).
Some calcium channel blockers commonly prescribed for arrhythmia include:
- diltiazem (Cardizem, Cartia, Dilacor, Diltia, Tiazac)
- verapamil (Calan, Covera, Isoptin, Verelan)
Calcium channel blockers prescribed for high blood pressure include:
- amlodipine (Norvasc)
- nicardipine (Cardene)
Beta blockers slow the heart rate and cardiac output of patients with atrial fibrillation. These medicines also lower blood pressure by reducing the effects of adrenaline on the body.
Some commonly prescribed beta blockers include:
- atenolol (Tenormin)
- metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol)
- carvedilol (Coreg)
- propranolol (Inderal)
Anticoagulants and blood thinners make it more difficult for blood to clot (coagulate). They do not dissolve any existing blood clots, but they can prevent new clots from forming and existing clots from becoming larger. This is vitally important because blood clots can break loose and travel through the body to the brain where they can obstruct blood flow, causing a stroke and leaving portions of the brain damaged or destroyed.
People with atrial fibrillation are often prescribed anticoagulants or blood thinners because they are at greatest risk of developing clots—when the atria quiver chaotically, blood can pool in the atria instead of flowing into the ventricles.
Some commonly prescribed anticoagulants and blood thinners include:
- warfarin (Coumadin)