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Propafenone has caused new or worsened arrhythmias. Such proarrhythmic effects include sudden death and life-threatening ventricular arrhythmias such as ventricular fibrillation, ventricular tachycardia, asystole and torsade de pointes. It may also worsen premature ventricular contractions or supraventricular arrhythmias, and it may prolong the QT interval. It is therefore essential that each patient given RYTHMOL be evaluated electrocardiographically prior to and during therapy to determine whether the response to RYTHMOL supports continued treatment. Because propafenone prolongs the QRS interval in the electrocardiogram, changes in the QT interval are difficult to interpret [see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY].
In a U.S. uncontrolled, open label, multicenter trial in patients with symptomatic supraventricular tachycardia (SVT), 1.9% (9/474) of these patients experienced ventricular tachycardia (VT) or ventricular fibrillation (VF) during the study. However, in 4 of the 9 patients, the ventricular tachycardia was of atrial origin. Six of the nine patients that developed ventricular arrhythmias did so within 14 days of onset of therapy. About 2.3% (11/474) of all patients had a recurrence of SVT during the study which could have been a change in the patients' arrhythmia behavior or could represent a proarrhythmic event. Case reports in patients treated with propafenone for atrial fibrillation/flutter have included increased premature ventricular contractions (PVCs), VT, VF, torsade de pointes, asystole, and death.
Overall in clinical trials with RYTHMOL (which included patients treated for ventricular arrhythmias, atrial fibrillation/flutter, and PSVT), 4.7% of all patients had new or worsened ventricular arrhythmia possibly representing a proarrhythmic event (0.7% was an increase in PVCs; 4.0% a worsening, or new appearance, of VT or VF). Of the patients who had worsening of VT (4%), 92% had a history of VT and/or VT/VF, 71% had coronary artery disease, and 68% had a prior myocardial infarction. The incidence of proarrhythmia in patients with less serious or benign arrhythmias, which include patients with an increase in frequency of PVCs, was 1.6%. Although most proarrhythmic events occurred during the first week of therapy, late events also were seen and the CAST study [see BOXED WARNING: Mortality] suggests that an increased risk of proarrythmia is present throughout treatment.
In a study of sustained-release propafenone (RYTHMOL SR®), there were too few deaths to assess the long term risk to patients. There were 5 deaths, 3 in the pooled RYTHMOL SR group (0.8%) and 2 in the placebo group (1.6%). In the overall RYTHMOL SR and RYTHMOL immediate-release database of 8 studies, the mortality rate was 2.5% per year on propafenone and 4.0% per year on placebo. Concurrent use of propafenone with other antiarrhythmic agents has not been well studied.
Unmasking Brugada Syndrome
Use with Drugs that Prolong the QT Interval and Antiarrhythmic Agents
The use of RYTHMOL in conjunction with other drugs that prolong the QT interval has not been extensively studied. Such drugs may include many antiarrhythmics, some phenothiazines, tricyclic antidepressants, and oral macrolides. Withhold Class IA and III antiarrhythmic agents for at least 5 half-lives prior to dosing with RYTHMOL. Avoid the use of propafenone with Class IA and III antiarrhythmic agents (including quinidine and amiodarone). There is only limited experience with the concomitant use of Class IB or IC antiarrhythmics.
Drug Interactions: Simultaneous Use with Inhibitors of Cytochrome P450 Isoenzymes 2D6 and 3A4
Propafenone is metabolized by CYP2D6, CYP3A4, and CYP1A2 isoenzymes. Approximately 6% of Caucasians in the U.S. population are naturally deficient in CYP2D6 activity and to a somewhat lesser extent in other demographic groups. Drugs that inhibit these CYP pathways (such as desipramine, paroxetine, ritonavir, sertraline for CYP2D6; ketoconazole, erythromycin, saquinavir, and grapefruit juice for CYP3A4; and amiodarone and tobacco smoke for CYP1A2) can be expected to cause increased plasma levels of propafenone.
Increased exposure to propafenone may lead to cardiac arrhythmias and exaggerated beta-adrenergic blocking activity. Because of its metabolism, the combination of CYP3A4 inhibition and either CYP2D6 deficiency or CYP2D6 inhibition in users of propafenone is potentially hazardous. Therefore, avoid simultaneous use of RYTHMOL with both a CYP2D6 inhibitor and a CYP3A4 inhibitor.
Use in Patients with a History of Heart Failure
In clinical trial experience with RYTHMOL, new or worsened congestive heart failure (CHF) has been reported in 3.7% of patients with ventricular arrhythmia; of those 0.9% were considered probably or definitely related to propafenone HCl. Of the patients with CHF probably related to propafenone, 80% had preexisting heart failure and 85% had coronary artery disease. CHF attributable to propafenone HCl developed rarely ( < 0.2%) in ventricular arrhythmia patients who had no previous history of CHF. CHF occurred in 1.9% of patients studied with PAF or PSVT.
In a U.S. trial of RYTHMOL SR in patients with symptomatic AF, heart failure was reported in 4 (1.0%) patients receiving RYTHMOL SR (all doses), compared to 1 (0.8%) patient receiving placebo.
Propafenone slows atrioventricular conduction and may also cause dose-related first degree AV block. Average PR interval prolongation and increases in QRS duration are also dose-related. Do not give propafenone to patients with atrioventricular and intraventricular conduction defects in the absence of a pacemaker [see CONTRAINDICATIONS and CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY].
The incidence of first degree, second degree, and third degree AV block observed in 2,127 ventricular arrhythmia patients was 2.5%, 0.6%, and 0.2%, respectively. Development of second or third degree AV block requires a reduction in dosage or discontinuation of propafenone HCl. Bundle branch block (1.2%) and intraventricular conduction delay (1.1%) have been reported in patients receiving propafenone. Bradycardia has also been reported (1.5%). Experience in patients with sick sinus node syndrome is limited and these patients should not be treated with propafenone.
In a U.S. trial in 523 patients with a history of symptomatic AF treated with RYTHMOL SR, sinus bradycardia (rate < 50 beats/min) was reported with the same frequency with RYTHMOL SR and placebo.
Effects on Pacemaker Threshold
Propafenone may alter both pacing and sensing thresholds of implanted pacemakers and defibrillators. During and after therapy, monitor and re-program these devices accordingly.
Agranulocytosis has been reported in patients receiving propafenone. Generally, the agranulocytosis occurred within the first 2 months of propafenone therapy and upon discontinuation of therapy, the white count usually normalized by 14 days. Unexplained fever or decrease in white cell count, particularly during the initial 3 months of therapy, warrant consideration of possible agranulocytosis or granulocytopenia. Instruct patients to report promptly any signs of infection such as fever, sore throat, or chills.
Use in Patients with Hepatic Dysfunction
Propafenone is highly metabolized by the liver. Severe liver dysfunction increases the bioavailability of propafenone to approximately 70% compared to 3 to 40% in patients with normal liver function. In 8 patients with moderate to severe liver disease, the mean half-life was approximately 9 hours. Increased bioavailability of propafenone in these patients may result in excessive accumulation. Carefully monitor patients with impaired hepatic function for excessive pharmacological effects [see OVERDOSAGE].
Use in Patients with Renal Dysfunction
Approximately 50% of propafenone metabolites are excreted in the urine following administration of RYTHMOL.
In patients with impaired renal function, monitor for signs of overdosage [see OVERDOSAGE].
Use in Patients with Myasthenia Gravis
Elevated ANA Titers
Positive ANA titers have been reported in patients receiving propafenone. They have been reversible upon cessation of treatment and may disappear even in the face of continued propafenone therapy. These laboratory findings were usually not associated with clinical symptoms, but there is one published case of drug-induced lupus erythematosis (positive rechallenge); it resolved completely upon discontinuation of therapy. Carefully evaluate patients who develop an abnormal ANA test and, if persistent or worsening elevation of ANA titers is detected, consider discontinuing therapy.
Reversible disorders of spermatogenesis have been demonstrated in monkeys, dogs and rabbits after high dose intravenous administration of propafenone. Evaluation of the effects of short-term RYTHMOL administration on spermatogenesis in 11 normal subjects suggested that propafenone produced a reversible, short-term drop (within normal range) in sperm count.
Patient Counseling Information
See FDA-approved patient labeling (PATIENT INFORMATION).
Information for Patients
- Patients should be instructed to notify their health care providers of any change in over-thecounter, prescription and supplement use. The health care provider should assess the patients' medication history including all over-the-counter, prescription and herbal/natural preparations for those that may affect the pharmacodynamics or kinetics of RYTHMOL [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].
- Patients should also check with their health care providers prior to taking a new over-thecounter medicine.
- If patients experience symptoms that may be associated with altered electrolyte balance, such as excessive or prolonged diarrhea, sweating, vomiting, or loss of appetite or thirst, these conditions should be immediately reported to their health care provider.
- Patients should be instructed NOT to double the next dose if a dose is missed. The next dose should be taken at the usual time.
Carcinogenesis, Mutagenesis, Impairment of Fertility
Lifetime maximally tolerated oral dose studies in mice (up to 360 mg/kg/day, about twice the maximum recommended human oral daily dose [MRHD] on a mg/m² basis) and rats (up to 270 mg/kg/day, about 3 times the MRHD on a mg/m² basis) provided no evidence of a carcinogenic potential for propafenone HCl.
Propafenone HCl tested negative for mutagenicity in the Ames (salmonella) test and in the in vivo mouse dominant lethal test. It tested negative for clastogenicity in the human lymphocyte chromosome aberration assay in vitro and in rat and Chinese hamster micronucleus tests, and other in vivo tests for chromosomal aberrations in rat bone marrow and Chinese hamster bone marrow and spermatogonia.
Propafenone HCl, administered intravenously to rabbits, dogs, and monkeys, has been shown to decrease spermatogenesis. These effects were reversible, were not found following oral dosing of propafenone HCl, were seen at lethal or near lethal dose levels and were not seen in rats treated either orally or intravenously [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]. Treatment of male rabbits for 10 weeks prior to mating at an oral dose of 120 mg/kg/day (about 2.4 times the MRHD on a mg/m² basis) or an intravenous dose of 3.5 mg/kg/day (a spermatogenesis-impairing dose) did not result in evidence of impaired fertility. Nor was there evidence of impaired fertility when propafenone HCl was administered orally to male and female rats at dose levels up to 270 mg/kg/day (about 3 times the MRHD on a mg/m² basis).
Use In Specific Populations
Pregnancy Category C
There are no adequate and well-controlled studies in pregnant women. RYTHMOL should be used during pregnancy only if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk to the fetus.
Teratogenic Effects: Propafenone has been shown to be embryotoxic (decreased survival) in rabbits and rats when given in oral maternally toxic doses of 150 mg/kg day (about 3 times the maximum recommended human dose [MRHD] on a mg/m² basis) and 600 mg/kg/day (about 6 times the MRHD on a mg/m² basis), respectively. Although maternally tolerated doses (up to 270 mg/kg/day, about 3 times the MRHD on a mg/m² basis) produced no evidence of embryotoxicity in rats, post-implantation loss was elevated in all rabbit treatment groups (doses as low as 15 mg/kg/day, about 1/3 the MRHD on a mg/m² basis).
Non-teratogenic Effects: In a study in which female rats received daily oral doses of propafenone from mid-gestation through weaning of their offspring, doses as low as 90 mg/kg/day (equivalent to the MRHD on a mg/m² basis) produced increases in maternal deaths. Doses of 360 or more mg/kg/day (4 or more times the MRHD on a mg/m² basis) resulted in reductions in neonatal survival, body weight gain and physiological development.
Labor and Delivery
It is not known whether the use of propafenone during labor or delivery has immediate or delayed adverse effects on the fetus, or whether it prolongs the duration of labor or increases the need for forceps delivery or other obstetrical intervention.
Propafenone is excreted in human milk. Because of the potential for serious adverse reactions in nursing infants from propafenone, decide whether to discontinue nursing or to discontinue the drug, taking into account the importance of the drug to the mother.
The safety and effectiveness of propafenone in pediatric patients have not been established.
Clinical studies of RYTHMOL did not include sufficient numbers of subjects aged 65 and over to determine whether they respond differently from younger subjects. Other reported clinical experience has not identified differences in responses between the elderly and younger patients. In general, dose selection for an elderly patient should be cautious, usually starting at the low end of the dosing range, reflecting the greater frequency of decreased hepatic, renal, or cardiac function, and of concomitant disease or other drug therapy.
Last reviewed on RxList: 6/7/2013
This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.
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