Amiodarone and "primary" prevention of sudden death: critical review of a decade of clinical trials

J Farré, J Romero, J M Rubio, R Ayala, J Castro-Dorticós
American Journal of Cardiology 1999 March 11, 83 (5): 55D-63D
Several trials have evaluated the role of amiodarone in decreasing mortality in patients at high risk of developing sudden death. Current evidence does not support the prophylactic use of amiodarone in myocardial infarction (MI) survivors with a depressed left ventricular function and/or frequent or complex ventricular ectopy. Some postinfarction trials (e.g., the Spanish Study of Sudden Death [SSSD]) found mortality rates in controls much lower than the expected figures. Other postinfarction trials--the European Amiodarone Myocardial Infarction Arrhythmia Trial (EMIAT) and the Canadian Amiodarone Myocardial Infarction Arrhythmia Trial (CAMIAT)--despite observing a 2-year mortality rate of about 15% as expected, could not demonstrate a significant reduction in mortality. Amiodarone decreases the risk of sudden death in postinfarction patients by about 35%. In patients with a history of heart failure and left ventricular dysfunction, evidence is not sufficiently strong to use amiodarone for prevention of sudden death. The 2 major trials on such patients, Group for the Study of Survival in Heart Failure in Argentina (Grupo de Estudio de la Sobrevida en la Insuficiencia Cardiaca en Argentina or GESICA) and the Survival Trial of Antiarrhythmic Therapy in Congestive Heart Failure (STAT-CHF), arrived at conflicting results. Meta-analyses have been performed to overcome the small sample size of these trials, with the aim of assessing the benefit of amiodarone on total mortality. Differences among the recruited populations make it difficult to extract clinically applicable conclusions from these overviews. Even accepting that amiodarone might decrease total mortality by 10%, it is difficult to identify the patients for whom such a beneficial effect applies. A practical consequence of amiodarone trials is that this drug can be used rather safely in patients with left ventricular dysfunction of any etiology as, in contrast to some class I agents, it does not increase mortality. Therefore, amiodarone is the drug of choice when antiarrhythmic drug treatment is indicated in patients with left ventricular dysfunction.

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