In this drug factsheet:
What side effects are possible with this medication?
Many medications can cause side effects. A side effect is an unwanted response to a medication when it is taken in normal doses. Side effects can be mild or severe, temporary or permanent.
The side effects listed below are not experienced by everyone who takes this medication. If you are concerned about side effects, discuss the risks and benefits of this medication with your doctor.
The following side effects have been reported by at least 1% of people taking this medication. Many of these side effects can be managed, and some may go away on their own over time.
Contact your doctor if you experience these side effects and they are severe or bothersome. Your pharmacist may be able to advise you on managing side effects.
- abdominal pain
- bitter or metallic taste
- decrease in sexual interest
- decreased sexual ability in men
- difficulty sleeping
- dizziness or lightheadedness
- dry mouth
- flushing of face
- loss of appetite
- sensitivity of skin to sunlight
Although most of the side effects listed below don't happen very often, they could lead to serious problems if you do not seek medical attention.
Check with your doctor as soon as possible if any of the following side effects occur:
- bleeding abnormalities (e.g., excessive bruising, bleed easily)
- blue-grey colouring of skin on face, neck, and arms
- blurred vision or blue-green halos seen around objects
- dry eyes
- fever or chills
- goiter (lump on neck)
- hair loss
- inability to concentrate
- low blood pressure
- numbness or tingling in fingers or toes
- sensitivity of eyes to light
- skin rash
- slow heartbeat
- swelling of feet or lower legs
- trembling or shaking hands
- trouble walking
- unusual and uncontrolled body movements
- unusual tiredness
- weakness in the arms or legs
- weight loss
Stop taking the medication and seek immediate medical attention if any of the following occur:
- blistering or peeling skin
- chest pain
- fast or irregular heartbeat
- signs of a severe allergic reaction, e.g.:
- shortness of breath
- swelling of the lips, tongue, or throat
- signs of liver problems, e.g.:
- abdominal pain or swelling
- dark urine
- itchy skin
- loss of appetite
- nausea and vomiting
- pale or clay-coloured stools
- yellowing of skin or whites of eyes
- signs of lung problems, e.g.:
- coughing-up of blood
- difficulty breathing
- shortness of breath
Some people may experience side effects other than those listed. Check with your doctor if you notice any symptom that worries you while you are taking this medication.
Are there any other precautions or warnings for this medication?
Before you begin using a medication, be sure to inform your doctor of any medical conditions or allergies you may have, any medications you are taking, whether you are pregnant or breast-feeding, and any other significant facts about your health. These factors may affect how you should use this medication.
Abnormal heart rhythm: Amiodarone may cause a heart rhythm disturbance called QT prolongation. It can also worsen or trigger an irregular heart beat (arrhythmia). Your doctor will monitor your heart rhythm regularly while you are taking this medication with a test called an electrocardiogram (ECG).
Blood potassium and magnesium levels: People with low levels of potassium or magnesium should have these conditions corrected before starting amiodarone, as the risk of worsening abnormal heart rhythms may be increased.
Congestive heart failure: If you have congestive heart failure, discuss with your doctor how this medication may affect your medical condition, how your medical condition may affect the dosing and effectiveness of this medication, and whether any special monitoring is needed.
General: Due to the potential for serious side effects, amiodarone should only be given by physicians who are experienced in the treatment of abnormal heart rhythms.
Liver disease: Amiodarone may cause liver problems, so your doctor should monitor your liver function regularly. If you have liver disease, discuss with your doctor how this medication may affect your medical condition, how your medical condition may affect the dosing and effectiveness of this medication, and whether any special monitoring is needed. People with hepatitis should not take amiodarone.
Lung problems: Amiodarone can cause lung problems (pulmonary fibrosis, permanent scarring of the lungs) that, in some cases, can be fatal. If you experience any difficulty breathing, wheezing, fever, shortness of breath, cough, or coughing up of blood, accompanied by weakness and weight loss while taking amiodarone, tell your doctor immediately.
Skin: Amiodarone may make your skin more sensitive to the sun. Use sunscreen with minimum SPF and protective clothing while taking amiodarone. Some people using amiodarone for long-term treatment may develop a blue-grey discoloration of exposed skin. Report any changes in skin colour to your doctor.
Surgery: If you are scheduled for surgery, inform all doctors involved in your care that you are taking amiodarone.
Thyroid disease: Amiodarone can cause thyroid problems (both overactive and underactive). Your doctor will perform tests regularly to monitor your thyroid function prior to and during amiodarone treatment, especially if you are a senior or if you have a history of thyroid problems.
Vision problems: Amiodarone may cause vision problems that may be severe or permanent. Regular eye exams are recommended during amiodarone treatment. If you notice any vision changes or problems, contact your doctor as soon as possible.
Pregnancy: This medication should not be used during pregnancy unless the benefits outweigh the risks. If you become pregnant while taking this medication, contact your doctor immediately.
Breast-feeding: This medication passes into breast milk. If you are a breast-feeding mother and are taking amiodarone, it may affect your baby. Talk to your doctor about whether you should continue breast-feeding.
Children: The safety and effectiveness of amiodarone for use by children have not been established.
What other drugs could interact with this medication?
There may be an interaction between amiodarone and any of the following:
- anti-arrythmics (e.g., disopyramide, flecainide, procainamide, quinidine)
- "azole" antifungals (e.g., fluconazole, ketoconazole, itraconazole, voriconazole)
- beta-blockers (e.g., propranolol, metoprolol)
- calcium channel blockers (e.g. diltiazem, verapamil)
- certain anesthetics
- fluoroquinolone antibiotics (e.g., ciprofloxacin, levofloxacin, moxifloxacin, norfloxacin, ofloxacin)
- grapefruit juice
- macrolide antibiotics (e.g., azithromycin, clarithromycin, erythromycin)
- protease inhibitors (e.g., indinavir, ritonavir, nelfinavir, saquinavir)
- St. John's wort
- "statin" medications (e.g., atorvastatin, simvastatin)
If you are taking any of these medications, speak with your doctor or pharmacist. Depending on your specific circumstances, your doctor may want you to:
- stop taking one of the medications,
- change one of the medications to another,
- change how you are taking one or both of the medications, or
- leave everything as is.
An interaction between two medications does not always mean that you must stop taking one of them. Speak to your doctor about how any drug interactions are being managed or should be managed.
Medications other than those listed above may interact with this medication. Tell your doctor or prescriber about all prescription, over-the-counter (non-prescription), and herbal medications you are taking. Also tell them about any supplements you take. Since caffeine, alcohol, the nicotine from cigarettes, or street drugs can affect the action of many medications, you should let your prescriber know if you use them.