Amiodarone is an antiarrhythmic agent unrelated to other drugs in current use. It has been little used in Britain, and no formal clinical trials have been possible because the drug has not been licensed by the Committee on Safety of Medicines. Nevertheless it has unique properties which can be valuable in the treatment of a wide spectrum of arrhythmias, particularly supraventricular tachycardias. Amiodarone has a slow onset of action and is cumulative. A sustained action is therefore achieved without the need for frequent maintenance dosage. Fifty patients have been treated with amiodarone in maintenance doses ranging from 200 mg on alternate days to 200 mg twice daily either alone, or in combination with conventional therapy. All were resistant to conventional therapy alone or could not be treated with usual agents because of unwanted drug effects. Of 27 patients with supraventricular arrhythmias, 18 were completely controlled and the other 9 were markedly improved. Six of 8 patients with recurrent life-threatening ventricular arrhythmias were well controlled symptomatically. Results were predictably less satisfactory in 15 high risk post-infarction patients with malignant arrhythmias and severe myocardial damage, but 6 were probably improved as a result of amiodarone. All patients on maintenance therapy for 3 months or more developed corneal microdeposits. None has any visual symptoms or other ocular defect, and treatment has not been curtailed as a result of this well recognized effect which is believed to be reversible and benign. Amiodarone can control patients with otherwise refractory arrhythmias including some which are life-threatening. Formal clinical trials are needed to define accurately its future role in the prevention and treatment of serious rhythm disorders of the heart.
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