Flecainide acetate is a class Ic antiarrhythmic agent used to prevent and treat tachyarrhythmias (abnormal fast rhythms of the heart). It is used to treat a variety of cardiac arrhythmias including paroxysmal atrial fibrillation (episodic irregular heartbeat originating in the upper chamber of the heart), paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (episodic rapid but regular heartbeat originating in the atrium), and ventricular tachycardia (rapid rhythms of the lower chambers of the heart). Flecainide works by regulating the flow of sodium in the heart, thus slowing nerve impulses. more...
Flecainide was originally sold under the trade name Tambocor® (manufactured by 3M pharmaceuticals). Flecainide went off-patent on February 10th, 2004, and is now available under the trade names Almarytm®, Apocard®, Ecrinal®, and Flécaine®. It is also available generically.
Flecainide is used in the treatment of many types of supraventricular tachycardias, including AV nodal reciprocating tachycardia (AVNRT) and Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome (WPW). This is because of the action of flecainide on the His-Purkinje system.
It also has limited use in the treatment of certain forms of ventricular tachycardia (VT). In particular, flecainide has been useful in the treatment of ventricular tachycardias that are not in the setting of an acute ischemic event. It has use in the treatment of right ventricular outflow tract (RVOT) tachycardia1 and in the suppression of arrhythmias in arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia (ARVD)2. However, studies have shown an increased mortality when flecainide is used to suppress ventricular extrasystoles in the setting of acute myocardial infarction.3,4
In individuals suspected of havings the Brugada syndrome, the administration of flecainide may help reveal the ECG findings that are characteristic of the disease process. This may help make the diagnosis of the disease in equivocal cases.5
Flecainide has been introduced into the treatment of arrhythmias in the pediatric population.
The dosing of flecainide is varied, with consideration made to the individual's other medications and comorbid conditions and how they may affect the metabolism of flecainide. Individuals with significant renal impairment may require measurement of the plasma level of flecainide to insure that the drug level remains within the therapeutic range (ie: that toxic levels do not occur). In addition, lower drug levels may be sought for the treatment of benign arrhythmias, to lower the chance of inducing a toxic effect of the drug. When used in the pediatric population, the dose of flecainide may be adjusted to the individual's body surface area.
Given the variable half life of flecainide and the characteristic QT prolongation on ECG elicited in flecainide toxicity, starting flecainide or changing the level of the drug is done under telemetry monitoring (preferably in a hospital telemetry unit) until a steady state plasma level has been achieved, typically three to five days after the dose has been increased.
For the treatment of supraventricular tachycardias and paroxysmal atrial fibrillation or flutter in individuals without significant structural heart disease, a starting dose of 50 mg twice a day may be appropriate. The dose may be increased (once a steady state level has been reached) if breakthrough arrhythmias occur.
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