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Patient information A-Z

Prior to starting amiodarone, you may have some questions about the medication. This handout aims to answer some of these. If you have further questions please don’t hesitate to ask ward pharmacist/ doctor or your local pharmacist/ GP.

What is amiodarone and why am I prescribed it?

Amiodarone belongs to the group of medicines known as anti-arrhythmic drugs. It is used to treat fast or irregular heartbeats. It works by slowing down the electrical impulses that cause fast or irregular heartbeats.

How do I take the medication?

When first starting amiodarone, most patients may take a reducing course such as one tablet three times a day for a week, then one tablet twice a day for a week. For those who need to continue to take amiodarone, the regular dose will usually be one tablet each day.

Your dose and frequency: ..................................................................................

Take the tablets at about the same time each day, with a glass of water. Swallow the tablets whole and do not crush or chew the tablet.

Do not stop taking this medicine without talking to your doctor or pharmacist first.

What if I miss a dose?

If you are taking amiodarone tablets two or three times a day and miss a dose, do not take the dose you missed. Carry on to your next usual dose.

If you are taking amiodarone as a once-a-day prescription, take it as soon as you remember it. If you forget to take it that day, skip it and carry on with your usual dose the next day. Do not take a double dose.

What are the possible side effects?

Amiodarone can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight. Keep out of direct sunlight while taking this medicine and for a few months after you have finished taking it. Cover your head with a hat and wear clothes to cover your arms and legs. You should use a high-factor sunscreen (at least SPF30) and avoid using sunbeds. Tell your doctor if you notice any blue or grey colouring of your skin. You should seek medical advice immediately by attending your Emergency Department or calling 999 if you experience worsening skin rash with or without blisters or lesions, particularly around your lips, eyes, mouth, nose and genitals.

You may develop small deposits in your eyes that may cause dazzling with bright lights at night but these should not affect your daytime vision. You might be dazzled by headlights at night so if this affects you, you should not drive at night. Tell your doctor if this becomes a problem or if you have blurred vision.

Amiodarone can make you produce too much or too little thyroid hormone. Tell your doctor if you are feeling extremely tired or restless, unable to stand the heat or cold and having weight gain or weight loss.

Amiodarone can cause inflammation of the lungs that can interfere with breathing and cause wheezing or coughing. You should seek medical advice immediately by attending your Emergency Department or calling 999 if you experience new or worsening cough and difficulties in breathing.

Amiodarone can interfere with the liver, which may cause the build-up of waste substances in the skin, eyes and urine. You should seek medical advice immediately by attending your Emergency Department or calling 999 if you experience any yellowing of the skin or the eyes, or dark coloured urine.

Other possible side effects that you should inform your doctor about include numbness in fingers or toes, metallic taste and muscle pain.

Will I be monitored during treatment?

You will be monitored whilst receiving treatment with amiodarone to check if the medicine is working properly, and to spot the development of the possible side effects listed above.

Blood tests, including liver function tests, thyroid function tests, chest x-ray and ECG (electrical test of your heartbeat) are carried out before starting treatment. The results of these tests will be sent to your GP.

Liver function tests and thyroid function tests are carried out every six months alongside other tests such as chest x-rays and ECG while you are taking amiodarone. Your GP can compare these results to those from when you started taking amiodarone.

You should arrange an initial eye test with your optician on starting amiodarone and then obtain an eye test every 12 months during the treatment.

Does anything affect amiodarone?

Many medicines interact with amiodarone including prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs and herbal remedies. Please always tell the doctor or pharmacist that you are taking these medicines. They will advise you which medicines are safe to take with them.

You should limit your alcohol intake and avoid grapefruit juice if you are taking amiodarone as it may increase the risk of side effects.

Other questions

We recommend that women do not become pregnant while taking amiodarone. Please consult your doctor regarding contraception if appropriate. If you think you may be pregnant, contact your doctor immediately for advice as amiodarone should not be taken during pregnancy.

You should not breastfeed whilst taking amiodarone.

If you need further supplies of your medication you should in most cases ask your doctor unless you have been advised otherwise.

Always read the patient information leaflet provided by the manufacturer.

We are smoke-free

Smoking is not allowed anywhere on the hospital campus. For advice and support in quitting, contact your GP or the free NHS stop smoking helpline on 0800 169 0 169.

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Cambridge University Hospitals
NHS Foundation Trust
Hills Road, Cambridge

Telephone +44 (0)1223 245151