The American Heart Association estimates that atrial fibrillation (also know as AFib or AF) affects about 2.7 million Americans. This condition is a type of abnormal heart beat known as an arrhythmia, and these irregular beats can occur either on a continuous basis or in sporadic episodes. In either case, if you are suffering from AFib, you are likely to feel the effects of this abnormal heart activity.
Understanding Atrial Fibrillation
When you are diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, your physicians have found that your heart’s upper chambers, known as the atria, are beating out of synch with your heart’s lower chambers, called the ventricles. Because of this lack of coordination, your heart does not pump all of its blood out into your body.
Instead, pools of blood can form in your atria, often leading to dangerous clots. Having blood clots in your heart is especially concerning because these coagulates can break free from your atria and can travel all over your body, including your brain. Clots in your brain may restrict blood flow to this important organ, resulting in a stroke.
Fortunately, you do not have to suffer with AFib and fear these dire circumstances Most cases can be treated with medications, catheter procedures or surgeries to correct the arrhythmia and to improve your quality of life. Physicians typically begin your treatment with medications that can help control the rate and the rhythm of your heart as well as improve any issues you may have with high blood pressure, a common side effect of AFib. You may also be given medications that will help to prevent those dangerous blood clots from ever forming.
Here’s a comprehensive list of available atrial fibrillation along with links to AFib medication prices that will help you save up to 90% off U.S. retail prices.
Heart Rate Medications
Your heart rhythm and your heart rate go hand-in-hand. When your heart is beating too fast, it is not doing its job efficiently. It becomes overworked and stressed from beating too hard and too fast all the time. This pressure will eventually weaken your heart and will lead to heart failure.
To prevent this unnecessary pressure on your vital organ, your physician may put you on a medication that will help get your rate under control and that will improve your atrial fibrillation as well. There are several common types of heart rate medications that your doctor may prescribe based on your specific health and needs.
Beta blockers are used to lower heart rates because they block the beta known as epinephrine. More commonly referred to as adrenaline, epinephrine tends to make your heart race, wearing down your organ and reducing your quality of life.
Beta blockers also address problems with anxiety, migraines, high blood pressure and other related issues that are often linked to high heart rates and AFib.
Commonly prescribed beta blockers, with their brand names in parentheses, include:
- nadolol (Corgard)
- bisoprolol (Zebeta)
- betaxolol (Kerlone)
- acebutolol (Sectral)
- nebivolol (Bystolic)
- timolol (Blocadren)
- atenolol (Tenormin)
- carvedilol (Coreg, Coreg CR)
- labetalol (Trandate, Normodyne)
penbutolol (Levatol)– discontinued
- sotalol hydrochloride AF (Betapace AF, Sotalol Hydrochloride AF)
- propranolol (Hemangeol, Inderal LA, Inderal XL, InnoPran, Inderal)
- metoprolol tartrate (Lopressor, Metoprolol Succinate, Metoprolol Tartrate Sr, Toprol XL)
Calcium Channel Blockers
Another type of medication often used to slow heart rates is calcium channel blockers. These prescriptions medications work to relax the smooth muscle lining of your arteries and to prevent your heart from absorbing calcium. Because calcium can be used to strengthen your heart’s contractions, calcium channel blockers are used prevent the absorption of this nutrient so your heart stays relaxed and your arteries are widened.
Currently, there are only two calcium channel blockers that are considered centrally acting. You need these types of blockers to lower your heart rate and to treat your atrial fibrillation. The two options that your physician may prescribe are:
- verapamil (Calan, Calan SR, Isoptin SR, Verelan SR, Verelan PM, Isoptin, Isoptin I.V., Covera-HS)
- diltiazem (Cardizem, Cartia XT, Dilacor XR, Dilt-CD, Diltia XT, Diltiazem CD, Diltzac, Matzim LA, Taztia XT, Tiazac)
There are other calcium channel blockers that are peripherally acting rather than centrally acting. Because these blockers also relax your blood vessels, they are not good options for effectively treating atrial fibrillation.
Your doctor may decide that you need a digitalis glycosides prescription for digoxin (Digitek or Lanoxin). If your heart is weakened by years of high heart rates or arrhythmias, or if you are nearing heart failure, you may be given digoxin.
This medication will help to strengthen your heart contractions by slowing down the electrical activity between your atria and your ventricles. This regulation of your heart activity will then lead to a more controlled heart rate.
Heart Rhythm Medications
Arrhythmias like atrial fibrillation are electrical problems caused by issues with the current that flows throughout your heart. Your AFib occurs because your heart is not following the correct electrical patterns, and you have chaotic signals rushing through your atria. Because your heart does not know what to do with these uncontrolled electrical currents, it begins to quiver and to beat erratically instead of in a proper rhythm.
Medications that are prescribed to treat these errant currents are called antiarrhythmic drugs. They can be used to help correct continuous AFib and to prevent episodes of arrhythmia. Sodium channel blockers and potassium channel blockers are the two types of heart rhythm medications.
Sodium Channel Blockers
By reducing the speed of your heart muscles conducting electricity via the sodium channels of your heart cells, these blockers can provide some control over your heart rhythm. Common sodium channel blockers include:
- flecainide (Tambocor)
- propafenone (Rythmol, Rythmol SR)
- disopyramide (Norpace, Norpace CR)
- procainamide (Pronestyl, Procan SR, Pronestyl-SR, Procanbid)
- quinidine (Quin-G, Cardioquin, Quinora, Quinidex Extentabs, Quinaglute Dura-Tabs, Quin-Release)
Potassium Channel Blockers
Potassium channel blockers help control heart rhythms by slowing down the electrical pulses in the heart via your cells’ potassium channels. The most commonly used potassium channel blockers for AFib include:
Individuals with permanent AFib should avoid using dronedarone. As both a beta blocker and a potassium channel blocker, sotalol controls both heart rates and heart rhythms.
Your doctor may decide to prescribe medication that will help prevent those dangerous blood clots from forming. Blood thinners include both anticoagulant and antiplatelet drugs that prevent clots but that increase your risk of bleeding. You need to be careful with these medications because they often have dangerous side effects.
By interfering with the actions of your blood platelets, these medications cause your blood cells to bunch together, which slows excessive bleeding. Common antiplatelet drugs include:
- prasugrel (Effient)
- clopidogrel (Plavix)
- ticagrelor (Brilinta)
- anagrelide (Agrylin)
- tirofiban (Aggrastat)
- vorapaxar (Zontivity)
- dipyridamole (Persantine)
Anticoagulants extend the time it takes for your blood to form a clot, keeping your blood thinner and clot-free. However, the dosage of this drug must be correct so that you do not bleed too much while your blood stays thin. You will be carefully monitored if you are placed on one of these drugs. Oral anticoagulant medications include:
- apixaban (Eliquis)
- edoxaban (Savaysa)
- dabigatran (Pradaxa)
- rivaroxaban (Xarelto)
- warfarin (Coumadin, Jantoven)
There are also injectable anticoagulants that you either administer to yourself or that you receive from a healthcare provider. These medications include:
- dalteparin (Fragmin)
- enoxaparin (Lovenox, Lovenox HP, Clexane, Clexane Forte)
- fondaparinux (Arixtra)
Talking to Your Doctor
Although there are risks to having atrial fibrillation, there are many different medications that can be used to treat this condition. Talk to your doctor about your medical history, other drugs you are taking, possible side effects and other physical factors to determine which of these medications will best manage your symptoms.