Quinidine Gluconate Indications and Usage
Conversion of atrial fibrillation/flutter
In patients with symptomatic atrial fibrillation/flutter whose symptoms are not adequately controlled by measures that reduce the rate of ventricular response, quinidine gluconate is indicated as a means of restoring normal sinus rhythm. If this use of quinidine gluconate does not restore sinus rhythm within a reasonable time (see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION), then quinidine gluconate should be discontinued.
Reduction of frequency of relapse into atrial fibrillation/flutter
Chronic therapy with quinidine gluconate is indicated for some patients at high risk of symptomatic atrial fibrillation/flutter, generally patients who have had previous episodes of atrial fibrillation/flutter that were so frequent and poorly tolerated as to outweigh, in the judgment of the physician and the patient, the risks of prophylactic therapy with quinidine gluconate. The increased risk of death should specifically be considered. Quinidine gluconate should be used only after alternative measures (e.g., use of other drugs to control the ventricular rate) have been found to be inadequate.
In patients with histories of frequent symptomatic episodes of atrial fibrillation/flutter, the goal of therapy should be an increase in the average time between episodes. In most patients, the tachyarrhythmia will recur during therapy, and a single recurrence should not be interpreted as therapeutic failure.
Suppression of ventricular arrhythmias
Quinidine gluconate is also indicated for the suppression of recurrent documented ventricular arrhythmias, such as sustained ventricular tachycardia, that in the judgment of the physician are life-threatening. Because of the proarrhythmic effects of quinidine, its use with ventricular arrhythmias of lesser severity is generally not recommended, and treatment of patients with asymptomatic ventricular premature contractions should be avoided. Where possible, therapy should be guided by the results of programmed electrical stimulation and/or Holter monitoring with exercise.
Antiarrhythmic drugs (including quinidine gluconate) have not been shown to enhance survival in patients with ventricular arrhythmias.
Quinidine is contraindicated in patients who are known to be allergic to it, or who have a history of immune thrombocytopenia or have developed thrombocytopenic purpura during prior therapy with quinidine or quinine (see WARNINGS).
In the absence of a functioning artificial pacemaker, quinidine is also contraindicated in any patient whose cardiac rhythm is dependent upon a junctional or idioventricular pacemaker, including patients in complete atrioventricular block.
Quinidine is also contraindicated in patients who, like those with myasthenia gravis, might be adversely affected by an anticholinergic agent.
In many trials of antiarrhythmic therapy for non-life-threatening arrhythmias, active antiarrhythmic therapy has resulted in increased mortality; the risk of active therapy is probably greatest in patients with structural heart disease.
In the case of quinidine used to prevent or defer recurrence of atrial flutter/fibrillation, the best available data come from a meta-analysis described under CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY/Clinical Effects above. In the patients studied in the trials there analyzed, the mortality associated with the use of quinidine was more than three times as great as the mortality associated with the use of placebo.
Another meta-analysis, also described under CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY/Clinical Effects, showed that in patients with various non-life-threatening ventricular arrhythmias, the mortality associated with the use of quinidine was consistently greater than that associated with the use of any of a variety of alternative antiarrhythmics.
Like many other drugs (including all other Class Ia antiarrhythmics), quinidine prolongs the QTc interval, and this can lead to torsades de pointes , a life-threatening ventricular arrhythmia (see OVERDOSAGE). The risk of torsades is increased by bradycardia, hypokalemia, hypomagnesemia or high serum levels of quinidine, but it may appear in the absence of any of these risk factors. The best predictor of this arrhythmia appears to be the length of QTc interval, and quinidine should be used with extreme care in patients who have preexisting long-QT syndromes, who have histories of torsades de pointes of any cause, or who have previously responded to quinidine (or other drugs that prolong ventricular repolarization) with marked lengthening of the QTc interval. Estimation of the incidence of torsades in patients with therapeutic levels of quinidine is not possible from the available data.
Other ventricular arrhythmias that have been reported with quinidine include frequent extrasystoles, ventricular tachycardia, ventricular flutter, and ventricular fibrillation.
Paradoxical increase in ventricular rate in atrial flutter/fibrillation
When quinidine is administered to patients with atrial flutter/fibrillation, the desired pharmacologic reversion to sinus rhythm may (rarely) be preceded by a slowing of the atrial rate with a consequent increase in the rate of beats conducted to the ventricles. The resulting ventricular rate may be very high (greater than 200 beats per minute) and poorly tolerated. This hazard may be decreased if partial atrioventricular block is achieved prior to initiation of quinidine therapy, using conduction-reducing drugs such as digitalis, verapamil, diltiazem, or a β-receptor blocking agent.
Exacerbated bradycardia in sick sinus syndrome
In patients with the sick sinus syndrome, quinidine has been associated with marked sinus node depression and bradycardia.
Renal or hepatic dysfunction causes the elimination of quinidine to be slowed, while congestive heart failure causes a reduction in quinidine’s apparent volume of distribution. Any of these conditions can lead to quinidine toxicity if dosage is not appropriately reduced. In addition, interactions with coadministered drugs can alter the serum concentration and activity of quinidine, leading either to toxicity or to lack of efficacy if the dose of quinidine is not appropriately modified (see PRECAUTIONS/Drug Interactions).
Because quinidine opposes the atrial and A-V nodal effects of vagal stimulation, physical or pharmacological vagal maneuvers undertaken to terminate paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia may be ineffective in patients receiving quinidine.
Quinidine-induced thrombocytopenia is an immune-mediated disorder characterized by a drug-dependent antibody that is itself nonreactive, but when soluble drug is present at pharmacologic concentrations, binds tightly to specific platelet membrane glycoproteins, causing platelet destruction.1 Serologic testing for quinidine-specific antibody is commercially available and may be useful for identifying the specific cause of thrombocytopenia in individual cases. Testing is important because a patient with quinidine-dependent antibodies should not be re-exposed to quinidine.
A case control study found a 125-fold increased risk of severe thrombocytopenia (platelets <30,000 µL, requiring hospitalization) with quinidine.2 The incidence of quinidine-induced thrombocytopenia was 1.8 cases per 1,000 patient years of exposure. The incidence of less severe thrombocytopenia may be higher.
Typically, a patient with immune thrombocytopenia will have taken drug for about 1 week or intermittently over a longer period of time (possibly years) before presenting with petechiae or bruising. Systemic symptoms, such as lightheadedness, chills, fever, nausea, and vomiting, often may precede bleeding events. Thrombocytopenia may be severe. Patients should have risk/benefit re-evaluated in order to continue treatment with quinidine. If the drug is stopped, symptoms usually resolve within 1 or 2 days and platelet count returns to normal in less than 1 week. If quinidine is not stopped, there is a risk of fatal hemorrhage. The onset of thrombocytopenia may be more rapid upon re-exposure.
In patients without implanted pacemakers who are at high risk of complete atrioventricular block (e.g., those with digitalis intoxication, second degree atrioventricular block, or severe intraventricular conduction defects), quinidine should be used only with caution.
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