Amiodarone is an antiarrhythmic agent commonly used in the treatment of supraventricular and ventricular tachyarrhythmias. This article reviews the results and clinical implications of primary and secondary prevention trials in which amiodarone was used in one of the treatment arms. Key post–myocardial infarction primary prevention trials include the European Myocardial Infarct Amiodarone Trial (EMIAT) and the Canadian Amiodarone Myocardial Infarction Trial (CAMIAT), both of which demonstrated that amiodarone reduced arrhythmic but not overall mortality. In congestive heart failure patients, amiodarone was studied as a primary prevention strategy in two pivotal trials: Grupo de Estudio de la Sobrevida en la Insuficiencia Cardiac en Argentina (GESICA) and Amiodarone in Patients With Congestive Heart Failure and Asymptomatic Ventricular Arrhythmia (CHF-STAT). Amiodarone was associated with a neutral overall survival and a trend toward improved survival in nonischemic cardiomyopathy patients in CHF/STAT and improved survival in GESICA. In post–myocardial infarction patients with nonsustained ventricular tachycardia and a depressed ejection fraction, the Multicenter Automatic Defibrillator Implantation Trial (MADIT) demonstrated that implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICD) statistically improved survival compared to the antiarrhythmic drug arm, most of whose patients were taking amiodarone. In patients with histories of sustained ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation, the Cardiac Arrest Study in Seattle: Conventional Versus Amiodarone Drug Evaluation (CASCADE) trial demonstrated that empiric amiodarone lowered arrhythmic recurrence rates compared to other drugs guided by serial Holter or electrophysiologic studies. However, arrhythmic death rates were high in both treatment arms of the study. Several secondary prevention trials, including the Antiarrhythmics Versus Implantable Defibrillators Study (AVID), the Canadian Implantable Defibrillator Study (CIDS), and the Cardiac Arrest Study Hamburg (CASH), have demonstrated the superiority of ICD therapy compared to empiric amiodarone in improving overall survival. Based on the above findings, amiodarone is safe to use in post–myocardial infarction and congestive heart failure patients that need antiarrhythmic therapy. Although amiodarone is effective in treating malignant arrhythmias, high-risk patients should be considered for an ICD as frontline therapy.
Section of Cardiology and the Cardiovascular Center, Penn State University College of Medicine, Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Hershey, Pennsylvania, USA
Correspondence to Gerald V. Naccarelli, MD, Section of Cardiology, Penn State University College of Medicine, M.C. H047, P.O. Box 850, Hershey, PA 17033, USA