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Amiodarone: Father Went into Hospital and Never Came Out

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Houston, TX: When Robert R. was put on amiodarone, his family thought the drug was necessary to treat his condition. They did not realize that, because of amiodarone side effects, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had only approved amiodarone as a drug of last resort. Furthermore, they did not realize that the drug could result in amiodarone lung toxicity and was only approved for patients with life-threatening ventricular arrhythmia, which Robert did not have.

Amiodarone: Father Went into Hospital and Never Came OutAs a result, Robert's family has filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the prescribing doctor, alleging wrongful death. The basis of the lawsuit is that Robert should not have been put on amiodarone because he did not have ventricular fibrillation—for which the drug is approved—and because the prescribing doctor did not attempt to put Robert on other medications before prescribing the amiodarone. Following her father's death, Diane has researched amiodarone extensively and wants to get information about this drug out to the public.

In May 2005, the FDA sent out an alert about amiodarone, warning that the drug could cause fatal pulmonary toxicity (lung toxicity), hepatic injury and worsened arrhythmia. The FDA further warned that amiodarone should only be used to treat adults with life-threatening ventricular arrhythmias when other treatments have not worked or cannot be tolerated (fda.gov). In making the announcement, the FDA cited studies that found pulmonary toxicity rates as high as 17 percent in some patients. According to the FDA, pulmonary toxicity is fatal 10 percent of the time.

"The doctor used amiodarone to treat atrial fibrillation in my father, which is an off-label use of the drug according to the FDA," Diane says. "There are a few amiodarone side effects, including thyroid problems and liver problems, but the most serious consequence is the lung damage [lung toxicity, also known as pulmonary toxicity], which is what killed my father.

"My father didn't even have a bad atrial fibrillation. He'd only had two episodes and they were both paroxysmal, meaning they stopped on their own. He didn't require medical intervention to stop the episodes. So, amiodarone was a serious drug for him to be put on to start with.

"After that, it was a calamity of errors. The doctor prescribed the amiodarone, which was an error, at the same time he was given a pacemaker. He recommended my father have bypass surgery. We found out about robotic bypass, which was less harmful than other bypass because they don't break the sternum and there is a shorter recovery time. So, we researched robotic surgeons and my father wound up going to the second-most experienced robotic surgeon in the US.

"My father was put on amiodarone for four months before the bypass surgery. The robotic surgeon took him off the medication five days before the surgery. That was an error. Amiodarone has a half-life of at least 20 days, with an average half-life of around 50 days. So, my father should have been taken off it a minimum of 60 days before the surgery.

"When my father had the surgery, he still had amiodarone in his system. That triggered fibrosis, which led to lung toxicity. Within 48 hours of the surgery, he had fibrosis. Seven weeks after the surgery he passed away, suffering tremendously because he couldn't breathe.

"How could this happen? He was chopping wood a week before the pacemaker was put in [the same time the amiodarone was prescribed]. He was healthy. The surgery was voluntary, it wasn't mandated. We could have put it off because he didn't need it immediately. If he hadn't had the surgery, he wouldn't have died. I don't think the doctor knew about the half-life of the amiodarone. We asked the doctor about the risks prior to the surgery, but all he said was, 'There are always some risks'.

"My father went into the hospital on May 15, 2007, for his surgery and he never came out."

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READER COMMENTS

Posted by
Carol McVay
on
Just wanted to add briefly my experience on Amiodorone. In 2001 I had a pacemaker implanted @61 for Atrial Fibrillation. Started with pvc's, graduated to tachycardia then to atrial fib. I was prescribed by my Cardiologist, Aminodorone. I had moved to another town and the Cardiologist made a remark that I'll never forget: "Amiodorone is a dangerous drug", but continued to prescribe it for me. In 2006, there came a day that I was short of breath, thought perhaps it was allergy related and asked my husband to drive me 30 miles to the nearest emergency facility. They decided it was a good idea to keep me over night and provide respiratory treatments. That frankly is all I recall. My husband tells me that the next am when he came to take me home, I told him I wasn't feeling well and at that time, I "coded", cardiac and respiratory arrest. If he hadn't been in the room to witness this, I would have died as the hospital did not place me in a room with a cardiac monitor. I was placed in ICU on a ventilator.
I was in the hospital for some time and then transferred to a extended care/rehab facility where I stayed for quite awhile. That was not the best experience. I believe I may have had a stroke when I arrested and couldn't walk as I had little strength in my legs. Today, I need a cane for support. My husband was told by an attorney that I would have had a case if I had died. Just wanted to advise any and all that most likely it was the AMIODORONE.

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