Q. My husband was taking amiodarone for a heart rhythm problem. He developed pulmonary fibrosis as a side effect and died last November. I just can’t understand why this dangerous drug is still on the market.
A. We are so sorry to learn of your loss. Amiodarone (also available under the brand names Cordarone and Pacerone) is used to treat heart rhythm disturbances that don’t respond to other medications. A “black-box” warning in the prescribing information tells doctors: “Amiodarone hydrochloride is intended for use only in patients with the indicated life-threatening arrhythmias because its use is accompanied by substantial toxicity.” The most important of these is pulmonary (lung) toxicity, but it can also have negative effects on the liver and the thyroid.
The warning continues, “amiodarone poses major management problems that could be life-threatening in a population at risk of sudden death, so that every effort should be made to utilize alternative agents first.”
We recommend that anyone who receives a prescription for amiodarone discuss the benefit/risk ratio of this drug with the doctor in detail, so that it is used only when appropriate.