Poisoning due to class IA antiarrhythmic drugs. Quinidine, procainamide and disopyramide

Drug Saf. 1990 Nov-Dec;5(6):393-420. doi: 10.2165/00002018-199005060-00002.


Quinidine, procainamide and disopyramide are antiarrhythmic drugs in the class 1A category. These drugs have a low toxic to therapeutic ratio, and their use is associated with a number of serious adverse effects during long term therapy and life-threatening sequelae following acute overdose. Class 1A agents inhibit the fast inward sodium current and decrease the maximum rate of rise and amplitude of the cardiac action potential. Prolonged Q-T interval and, to a lesser extent, QRS duration may be observed at therapeutic concentrations of quinidine. With increasing plasma concentrations, progressive depression of automaticity and conduction velocity occur. 'Quinidine syncope' (a transient loss of consciousness due to paroxysmal ventricular tachycardia, frequently of the torsade de pointes type) occurs with therapeutic dosing, often in the first few days of therapy. Extracardiac adverse effects of quinidine include potentially intolerable gastrointestinal effects and hypersensitivity reactions such as fever, rash, blood dyscrasias and hepatitis. Procainamide produces electrophysiological changes that are similar to those of quinidine, although Q-T interval prolongation with the former is less pronounced at therapeutic concentrations. Hypersensitivity reactions including fever, rash and (more seriously) agranulocytosis are associated with procainamide, and a frequent adverse effect requiring cessation of therapy is the development of systemic lupus erythematosus. Of the 3 drugs, disopyramide has the most pronounced negative inotropic effects, which are especially significant in patients with pre-existing left ventricular dysfunction. As with quinidine, unexpected 'disopyramide syncope' at therapeutic concentrations has been described. Anticholinergic side effects are common with this drug and may require cessation of therapy. Disopyramide therapy may unpredictably induce severe hypoglycaemia. Severe intoxication with the class 1A agents may result from acute accidental or intentional overdose, or from accumulation of the drugs during long term therapy. Acute overdose can result in severe disturbances of cardiac conduction and hypotension, frequently accompanied by central nervous system toxicity. Decreased renal function can cause significant accumulation of procainamide and its active metabolite acecainide (N-acetyl-procainamide), resulting in severe intoxication. Mild to moderate renal dysfunction is less likely to lead to quinidine or disopyramide intoxication, unless renal failure is severe or concurrent hepatic dysfunction is present. Management of acute intoxication with class 1A drugs includes gut decontamination with provision of respiratory support and treatment of seizures as needed. Hypertonic sodium bicarbonate, by antagonising the inhibitory effect of quinidine on sodium conductance, may reverse many or all manifestations of cardiovascular toxicity.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Arrhythmia Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • Anti-Arrhythmia Agents / poisoning*
  • Disopyramide / pharmacokinetics
  • Disopyramide / poisoning
  • Humans
  • Poisoning / metabolism
  • Procainamide / pharmacokinetics
  • Procainamide / poisoning
  • Quinidine / pharmacokinetics
  • Quinidine / poisoning


  • Anti-Arrhythmia Agents
  • Disopyramide
  • Quinidine
  • Procainamide