Can Antiarrhythmic Agents be Selected Based on Mechanism of Action?

Lau, W.; Newman, D.; Dorian, P.
December 2000
Drugs;Dec2000, Vol. 60 Issue 6, p1315
Academic Journal
When selecting an antiarrhythmic agent the clinician needs to be able to accurately predict the probability that a particular drug will serve its intended purpose in a given patient. This is difficult because of the complexity of variables which govern the relationship between drug administration and clinical outcome. The efficacy of a drug may potentially be predicted from its mechanism of action. At least two classifications of antiarrhythmic agents based on mechanism of action have been proposed. The Vaughan Williams classification is based on the predominant electrophysiological effects of a drug on the action potential. In the Sicilian Gambit approach, a number of potential targets (‘vulnerable parameters’) for drug action are identified and antiarrhythmic drugs or substances that affect cardiac electrophysiology are characterised by their actions on each of these. The usefulness of these classification systems in predicting antiarrhythmic drug efficacy are limited. Furthermore, in the Vaughan Williams classification not all drugs in the same class have identical effects, whereas some drugs in different classes have overlapping actions. The Sicilian Gambit requires in-depth knowledge regarding cellular and molecular targets of antiarrhythmic agents which may make it intimidating or simply impractical for regular clinical use. Surrogate measures such as 24-hour Holter monitoring and programmed electrical stimulation have been used to predict anti-arrhythmic drug efficacy. However, studies such the Cardiac Arrhythmia Suppression Trial (CAST) have shown that suppression of ventricular ectopy on Holter monitoring does not necessarily correlate with improved survival and may in fact be dangerous. Conversely, studies using programmed electrical stimulation to assess drug effect on variables such as tachycardia inducibility, refractory period and ventricular tachycardia cycle length show that suppression of tachycardia inducibility, prolongation of refractory period and prolongation of ventricular tachycardia cycle length, are all associated with reduced recurrence of tachycardia and possibly improved survival. The most practical use of the current classification systems applied to antiarrhythmic agents may be in their ability to predict with reasonable accuracy, the risk and type of proarrhythmia based on the mechanism of action of an agent.


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