Dronedarone: Uses and Side Effects

Dronedarone is a medication used to treat two kinds of heart disorders: atrial fibrillation or the fast and irregular beating of the heart and atrial flutter or the fast but regular beating of the heart. These two occur in the upper atria or upper chambers of the heart. Patients with these conditions experience irregular heart rhythm, a rapid heart rate, heart palpitations and a feeling that the heart is fluttering. Atrial flutter occurs less frequently, but in some patients it leads to atrial fibrillation. These conditions may also  lead to further complications such as stroke. Together they contribute to the high incidence of cardiac related hospitalisation and death from heart failure. 

Dronedarone has been shown in clinical trials to significantly reduce the risk of hospitalisation and death of patients with these heart conditions. Dronedarone normalises heart rhythm for patients with atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter and those who are at risk because of old age, conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and for those who have a history of stroke. It is also recommended for patients who have had a recent episode of atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter or are about to have their heart rhythm converted to normal.

Dronedarone belongs to a class of medicines known as antiarrhythmics which normalise the heart rhythm. Dronedarone was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2009 to be used in patients with non-permanent atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter. Approximately 2.5 million Americans and 4.5 million people in the European Union currently suffer from atrial fibrillation. 

Before Dronedarone was developed and approved, the widely used medication for atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter was amiodarone which caused serious side effects such as organ toxicity  in patients. Dronedarone was designed in such a way as to avoid these side effects and provide relief for atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter. 
Dronedarone should be taken only on prescription of a qualified doctor. It comes in tablet form and is taken orally, usually two times a day at meal time in the morning and evening. It helps to control heart rhythm for the period it is being taken. Therefore it is advised to continue Dronedarone even if the patient has been feeling well for a long period of time. Medication should not be discontinued before consulting a doctor.
Dronedarone has been developed by Sanofi-Aventis and has been released under the name Multaq. 

Dronedarone Side Effects

Dronedarone may cause side effects in patients on medication. They may include

  • diarrhea
  • nausea
  • stomach pain
  • vomiting
  • heartburn
  • weakness
  • rash
  • itching
  • redness
  • Some serious side effects which require medical attention include
  • shortness of breath
  • wheezing
  • chest tightness
  • coughing up frothy mucus
  • difficulty in sleeping due to breathing problems
  • a need to prop yourself up with extra pillows in order to breathe at night
  • weight gain (of 5 or more pounds) in a short period of time
  • swelling of the feet or legs
  • slow heart beat
  • fainting

Dronedarone is not advised for patients with severe heart failure and depressed left ventricular systolic function.