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.

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  1. Lisa

    Omg my husband just had a stroke in July due to some irregular heartbeat issues and once he was in ICU they tried controlling it with amiodarone which took his heart rate too low. The up and down of his heart rate cause him to code a few days in. He ended up needing a pace maker because meds were not working. He was prescribed amiodarone upon discharge and now about a month and a half later, he is absolutely miserable. I started researching this horrific drug, and cannot believe the things I discovered. My husband has been taking Harvoni to cure his Hep C and come to find out this drug causes liver toxicity on top of pulmonary toxicity! I am so angry at the entire medical field for allowing this drug to slip through the cracks in blind faith. Please! If you are on it or know someone who is, make sure they check thoroughly with there doctor as in ask a million questions as to why they want you to take before trying other things. Even after stopping it the side effects can linger for months. I pray we stopped it soon enough but I doubt it because you don’t start feeling the full weight of the side effects until you are saturated with enough of it! Please always be your own annoying advocate previous ones. They don’t call it a medical PRACTICE for nothing!

  2. Stephen

    I have been on Amiodarone 400MG for the last 4months and now I am experiencing the following problems. I am experiencing random difficulty breathing, muscle pain in my legs, sweating, my arrhythmia from being minor now seemed to have increased along with numbness and tingling in both my legs. I have also noticed that I have to be careful regarding balance. Having read the various contributions from people and now researched this drug, I don’t understand why it is not withdrawn and why Doctors are still prescribing it. I will be asking my consultant to get me off this highly dangerous drug.

  3. Andy M.

    It only took 4 days to put me back in the hospital, a total of 10 days 7 years ago now I have only 50% lung function and COPD!

  4. Manuel G.

    My Heart Doctor put me on Amiodarone 800MG for 2 weeks. Then he reduceD it to 400MG. I was on it for just three weeks when I had problems. Tremors difficulty breathing, pain, confusion, decreased coordination, eyes muscle pain sweating, mood changes and a lot more went to the hospital for 2 days. Why is this drug still on the market? My Warfin was good for 3 years now it is 5.8 because of AMIODARONE does ANYONE KNOW WHO I CAN REPORT THIS DRUG? I should of read of the side effects but i trusted my doctor.
    Manuel G.

  5. Bill

    I have had my heart shocked twice in two weeks because of A=Fib.
    Now they put me on AMIODARONE. The side effects are all of the signs that could happen if you take this drug. I have been fighting the symptoms for three weeks and will talk to the Dr. to get me off of this drug. To anyone that is prescribed this med I would strongly suggest to ask as many ?s as you can. I have all symptoms and quite frankly I am worried.

  6. Andy M.

    Yes I’m sure the problems are from Amiodarone I took it for 10 days 6 years ago was admitted to hospital for 5 days with what they though was infectious pneumonia but pulmonary Dr. said it was from Amiodarone and switched drugs, still having lung problems. There is no way I would take anymore!!!!

  7. BB

    I had mini invasive mitrial valve repair w/maze procedure in May of 2011. I was put on 3 different meds. After recoup time my heart rate would go down to the low 40’s. I would get dizzy and clammy. I called the doctor, who took me off 2 of the 3, leaving me on Amiodarone.
    By February of this year, 2012, I started having shortness of breath and weakness. I knew something was wrong. At my one year check up for my heart in May of this year, I told my cardiologist. He referred me to a Pulmonoligist, who was “shocked” that I was on Amiodarone. He called my cardiologist while I was in his office and they agreed to discontinue that med.
    After a battery of tests, they found out I now have severe PAH. (Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension or high lung pressure) Since recently reading about the horrors of Amiodarone, it is no wonder I have developed lung problems. I understand there is no cure for PAH.
    My lungs now have a “pressure” of 70, where 30 is normal. My heart is under great duress trying to pump blood to the lungs, and will eventually fail. So all they can do is treat the symptoms. If only I would have been told about that terrible med!

  8. georgia s.

    My husband has just started amiodarone and his lungs filled with fluid, according to a cat scan..
    He has changed cardiologists and will discontinue the use of the amiodarone.
    He also has been getting high blood sugar readings and has had to increase his lantus from 25 to 32.
    Have others had this blood sugar problem?
    thanks, Georgia
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: It has been reported, but doesn’t seem to be common enough to have been included in the prescribing information.
    ps i took amiodarone a while back and found it very unpleasant in its side effects, even found it depressing.

  9. Andreasen

    On the facebook group named “Stop Amiodarone” there are instances of Amiodarone toxicity death within days after it was introduced. Pulmonary Fibrosis is ALWAYS fatal, it can be days, months or 10 years as it was with my wife.

  10. Mary N.

    I took amiodarone after minimally invasive heart surgery (valve replacement). After surgery my heart went into fibrillation. I had a pacemaker put in and was given amiodarone “to make my heart beat more regularly.” It sounded so harmless, I didn’t bother to look up the side effects. Bad mistake!
    After coming home from the hospital a terrible rash broke out on my upper body, I had very loose bowels alternating with constipation, and got so short of breath I could hardly walk across the room. I tried to talk to my cardiologist and my primary care Drs about possible side effects of medication, and they both poo-pooed me.
    But finally, after 4 months, I looked up the side effects and was absolutely horrified. There were even warnings about not giving amiodarone to the elderly (I’m 78). I can’t BELIEVE how brainwashed our doctors are by the drug reps who are always in and out of their offices, and the pharmacy companies that provide their “inservice training” and give out goodies and free samples. I’m ready to stop all prescription meds if I can, and I bought a blood pressure machine to check my own blood pressure and heart rate. I don’t trust doctors any more!!

  11. kathy belair

    My dad recently died after going into the hospital for pneumonia. It was discovered he had lung disease from taking the drug Amiodarone. He was on a respirator for a few weeks, but never pulled through. My mother says they were never warned about this drug nor were they advised to have his lungs check periodically. He was such a healthy man before this. Does the FDA keep track of deaths resulting from taking this drug? Have there been any lawsuits from people who have died taking this drug?

  12. JMM

    I have also had rapid on & off heart beats when taking Coq10. Whenever I use it my symptoms get worse like my heart is going to jump out of my chest at times. When I don’t take it I feel fine. What gives? I don’t take it anymore because I’m afraid I’ll have a heart attack or stroke.

  13. fred b.

    In the 3rd entry above Bill B. mentions taking potassium with CoQ10 to cure his rapid heart rate.
    This brings up a question about using CoQ10.
    Several years ago I began taking CoQ10 in an effort to relieve premature contractions. However, in my case the arrhythmia seemed to become more severe and I discontinued intake of the supplement. Earlier this year I was prescribed a low dose of Lovastatin for elevated cholesterol. I subsequently read that CoQ10 was an antidote for muscle pain which can be a consequence of Statins. I started taking CoQ10 again and within a few days had to go to the Emergency Room to get electric shock for treatment of severe atrial fibrilation. I stopped taking CoQ10 immediately and have had no more problems.
    I wonder now if it was the CoQ10 that might have set off the atrial fibrilation, and would appreciate any input on the matter.

  14. joan w.

    My husband died from amiodarone toxiciy march 2009. He developed pulmonary fibrosis and died a horrible death mostly on a respirator. 10 weeks in ICU. It was a terrible deterioration of a human being. We never heard of amiodarone toxicity. He was on this drug for 5 yrs. We were told he should have been having a lung functioning test every 6 months, he had 2 in 5 yrs. I have been on a web site (clinical cases and images-amiodarone induced toxicity) where there are more than 50 people commenting on their terrible experiences, the doctors have to make patients aware of these terrible side effects.
    This medication needs to have a special warning tag on it. This has to get out to public awareness. Look on the web site and see the heartache I and so many people are going through.

  15. Dot M.

    My husband was on amiodrone for years after bypass. He was hospitalized for copd. 2 Doctors were talking about amiodrone one said stop the other disagreed. They continued the amiodrone. Last year he was hospitalized 2 months with heart arrhythmia, congestive heart failure,& copd. He was failing, so I questioned all the medications and looked them up on line.
    I then told Doctors how these medications were doing more harm than good and told them to take him off 5 that I believed were not helping. A few were very dangerous for his age 80 yrs. My primary Dr. sat with me to go over meds for him to take at home. No amiodrone. He has been home over a year, his heart is weak but he is doing well. I have no medical background but can understand what I read, and have been with my husband 52 years.

  16. drose977

    My Father developed pulmonary fibrosis immediately following voluntary robotic bypass surgery, he died 5 weeks later. He had been taking Amiodarone for 5 months and stopped one week before his surgery. I guess the doctors were unaware of how long it stays in your system. The prescribing doctor did not try any other medicines prior to putting him on Amiordarone and a electrophysiologist was never consulted.

  17. CSM

    I was prescribed amiodorone for 4 years, before and after pacemaker placement. The only other drug that was used for my A-fib was fleconiade. On amiodorone I had severe numbness and tingling in both lower extremities and left arm, and twice was told I had a TIA, however symptoms continued and became worse, including tremor and balance issues.
    I was referred to a neurologist who treated me for a year and a half and never questioned the drug, nor did any other doctor. Finally, I said I would like to discontinue it, and because I was on coumadin I was allowed to do so. Because of the long half life it took about 2 1/2 months for the symptoms to go away, but they did and I am symptom free. I will not take the drug again no matter what. I know people also turn blue, called Smurf Syndrome!!!!

  18. j.p.

    Wonder how long you’d have to take amiodarone before you’d get the lung problem. Husband took that drug for a while after heart surgery until they physically restarted his heart to achieve rhythm. He has severe copd and fibrosis now, 8 years later. Could there be any relation? Thanks for all your interesting topics. Have tried several of them.

  19. Bill B.

    I have successfully treated my tachycardia (rapid heart rate) with potassium and CoQ10 supplements.
    I suspect this works by balancing the electrical charge in the sodium-potassium pump of the cells.
    I also try to avoid excitogens (MSG, chemicals, excess salt, etc.) as well as shocks to my nervous system, both of which I believe precipitate the rapid heart beating.

  20. Marie

    I am very sorry to hear about this story. I am sure there are so many more which are not discovered or told – and not just about this medication – but others.
    I have nothing to do with health or pharmaceutical business. Just an ordinary lady living far away from the U.S. (Sweden).
    I have seen side effects in people close to me (not from this medication) and that forced me to look for information.
    It would be interesting to know which medications can cause heart rhythm problems?!
    Please write about drug-induced diseases in general.

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