Harvard Heart Letter

Atrial fibrillation, angioplasty drugs approved

The FDA has approved two new drugs you are likely to be hearing about.

The Food and Drug Administration approves dozens of new drugs each year. Many aren't worth noting, like spin-offs of existing drugs with only minor differences ("me too" drugs), reformulations, or combinations of existing drugs. But readers are bound to be hearing about two new ones that got the green light in July 2009.

Dronedarone (Multaq)

What it does: Dronedarone (droe-NEH-dah-rone), which will be sold as Multaq, is the first new drug approved since 1999 for treating heart rhythm problems. Multaq affects the flow of potassium and other charged particles into and out of heart cells. It helps the upper chambers of the heart stay in a normal, steady rhythm instead of drifting into atrial fibrillation, a fast and erratic beat in the heart's upper chambers. Multaq is a possible alternative to amiodarone (Cordarone, Nexterone, Pacerone, generic). Head-to-head tests show that Multaq is not as effective as amiodarone. But it is safer, with less damage to the thyroid and nerves and fewer additional unwanted side effects.

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