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Br J Clin Pharmacol. 1999 Mar;47(3):307-13.

Risk of ventricular arrhythmias associated with nonsedating antihistamine drugs.

Author information

1
Area de Farmacovigilancia, Centro Nacional de Farmacobiología, Madrid, Spain.

Abstract

AIMS:

To quantify and compare the incidence of ventricular arrhythniias associated with the use of five nonsedating antihistamines: acrivastine, astemizole, cetirizine, loratadine and terfenadine. The effects of age, sex, dose, duration of treatment, and the interaction with P450 inhibitor drugs were also examined.

METHODS:

We carried out a cohort study with a nested case-control analysis using the UK-based General Practice Research database (GPRD). The study cohort included persons aged less than 80 years old who received their first prescription for any of the five study drugs between January 1, 1992 and September 30, 1996. We estimated relative risks and 95% confidence intervals of idiopathic ventricular arrhythmias with current use of antihistamines as compared with non use.

RESULTS:

The study cohort included 197425 persons who received 513012 prescriptions. Over the study period 18 valid cases of idiopathic ventricular arrhythmias were detected. Nine occurred during the current use of any antihistamine, resulting in a crude incidence of 1.9 per 10000 person-years (95%CI: 1.0-3.6) and a relative risk of 4.2 (95%CI: 1.5-11.8) as compared with non use. Astemizole presented the highest relative risk (RR= 19.0; 95%CI: 4.8-76.0) of all study drugs, while terfenadine (RR=2.1; 95%CI:0.5-8.5) was in the range of other nonsedating antihistamines. Older age was associated with a greater risk of ventricular arrhythmias (RR=7.4; 95%CI: 2.6-21.4) and seemed to increase the effect of antihistamines (RR=6.4; 95%CI: 1.7-24.8). The proportions of high dose terfenadine and the concomitant use with P450 inhibitors among current users of terfenadine were 2.7% and 3.4%, respectively over the study period with no single case of ventricular arrhythmias occurring in the presence of these two risk factors.

CONCLUSIONS:

The use of nonsedating antihistamines increases the risk of ventricular arrhythmias by a factor of four in the general population. Yet, the absolute effect is quite low requiring 57000 prescriptions, or 5300 person-years of use for one case to occur. The risk associated with terfenadine was no different from that with other nonsedating antihistamines.

Comment in

PMID:
10215756
PMCID:
PMC2014229
DOI:
10.1046/j.1365-2125.1999.00885.x
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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