I've been waking up in the wee hours of the morning lately, and I can't go back to sleep.
Because I can't stop thinking about one particular drug the doctors have Cliff taking: Pacerone.
It should have raised a red flag when the pharmacist refused to fill the prescription the first evening, but we were so excited to get Cliff home, nobody thought much about it.
I usually research any drug prescribed to either of us, simply because I like to be informed. Never have I been as terrified by any single medicine as I am by this one.
Some of the side effects:
Amiodarone has numerous side effects. Most individuals administered amiodarone on a chronic basis will experience at least one side effect.
Due to the iodine content of the agent (37.3% by weight), abnormalities in thyroid function are common. Amiodarone is structurally similar to thyroxine (a thyroid hormone), which contributes to the effects of amiodarone on thyroid function. The incidence of hypothyroidism is about 6%, while the incidence of hyperthyroidism is about 2%. They are called Wolff-Chalkoff and Jodbasedow effect separately.
Measurement of free thyroxine (FT4) alone may be unreliable and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) should therefore also be checked every 6 months .
Corneal micro-deposits are almost universally present (over 90%) in individuals taking amiodarone for at least 6 months. These deposits typically do not cause any symptoms. About 1 in 10 individuals may complain of a blueish halo.
Liver toxicity due to amiodarone is quite rare. A drug-induced hepatitis (inflammation of the liver) may occur and is sometimes reversible bylowering the dose.
Long-term administration of amiodarone is associated with a blue-grey discoloration of the skin. This is more commonly seen in individuals with lighter skin tones. The discoloration may revert upon cessation of the drug. However, the skin color may not return completely to normal.
Individuals taking amiodarone may become more sensitive to the harmful effects of UV-A light. Taking sunblock that also blocks UV-A rays appears to prevent this side effect.
The most serious reaction that is due to amiodarone is idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. The incidence of pulmonary fibrosis is not dose related. Some individuals were noted to develop pulmonary fibrosis after a week of treatment, while others did not develop it after years of continuous use. There are no known factors that increase the incidence of amiodarone-induced pulmonary fibrosis in a particular individual. Common practice is to avoid the agent if possible in individuals with decreased lung function.
The most specific test of pulmonary toxicity due to amiodarone is a dramatically decreased DLCO noted on pulmonary function testing.
The trouble is, you can't just withdraw the drug, or I'd have had Cliff stop taking the pills already. It isn't secreted in the urine, so it's in your body for months after you ingest it... something about a half-life.
Cliff will be seeing the surgeon tomorrow afternoon (Monday), but I don't think he's the one responsible for prescribing this medication... although I will be mentioning it. However, I'm calling the other heart specialist's office in the morning, and I intend to make my voice heard. Don't be surprised if some of you who live within a 100-mile radius hear me, too.
The drug was prescribed because Cliff had a couple spells of arrhythmia while he was in the hospital, by the way. There are plenty of other drugs that could have been used.