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Article Author:
Michael Ibrahim
Article Author:
Connor Kerndt
Article Editor:
Vijai Tivakaran
5/23/2020 7:34:46 PM
For CME on this topic:
Dofetilide CME
PubMed Link:


It is an oral medication containing dofetilide as the active ingredient. The formula also contains inactive ingredients of microcrystalline cellulose, corn starch, colloidal silicon dioxide, and magnesium stearate, gelatin, titanium dioxide, and FDC Yellow 6.[1][2][3]

Clinical Uses of Dofetilide

Dofetilide is effective in maintaining sinus rhythm in patients with atrial fibrillation. In the DIAMOND studies (Torp-Pedersen C et al., 1999), dofetilide did not affect mortality in patients with advanced heart failure or those convalescing from acute myocardial infarction.

Dofetilide is indicated in adults for the conversion of atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter to normal sinus rhythm (NSR) and the preservation of normal sinus rhythm in patients with highly symptomatic atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter of more than one week whose pathological sinus rhythm has converted to normal.

Azimilide and Sematilide are also class III antiarrhythmics, but they are not available in the United States.

Because induction of severe ventricular arrhythmias is possible with dofetilide, it was available through a restricted distribution system that includes only physicians, hospitals, and other institutions that have received special educational programs covering proper dosing and in-hospital treatment initiation, which is called Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS). However, in January 2016, although the safety risks for Tikosyn (dofetilide) continued to be present by FDA's determination, the agency also decided that REMS program are no longer compulsory because risk-benefit ration tilted on the side of benefits of the drug.[4]

Off-Label Uses of Dofetilide

Clinicians have used dofetilide as an off-label prescription for supraventricular arrhythmias, ventricular tachycardia, and Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome.

Mechanism of Action

Just like other class III antiarrhythmic drugs, dofetilide blocks potassium channels in phase 3 of the action potential and slows the efflux of potassium cation back out of the myocyte, which slows the repolarization rate of the cell and widens the action potential's plateau phase. The refractory periods of atrial, ventricular, and Purkinje cells thereby are increased, which also leads to lengthening of the QT interval on the ECG. The increased widening of QT interval is possibly due to the inhibition of phosphoinositide 3–kinase, which increases the late sodium current.[5][6]

Dofetilide is a class III antiarrhythmic agent. By inhibiting a component of the time-dependent potassium current, dofetilide increases the effective refractory period and action potential without affecting the conduction velocity.




Dofetilide dosing is based on creatinine clearance: (CrCl greater than 60 mL/min) 500 mcg bid (CrCl 40 mL/min to 60 mL/min) 250 mcg bid; (CrCl 20 mL/min to less than 40 mL/min) 125 mcg bid; (CrCl less than 20 mL/min) contraindicated.


Safety and efficacy have not been established in children.

Route of Administration

Oral absorption is approximately 100%.

Oral bioavailability is not affected by food or antacid. Steady-state plasma concentrations are attainable within 2 to 3 days. Plasma concentrations are dose-proportional.

Onset of Action

On a single dose, it takes 2 to 3 hours for dofetilide to reach maximum plasma concentration in the fasted state. Therefore, this means it takes 2 to 3 hours for the onset of action for dofetilide.

Duration of Action

The half-life of dofetilide was reported to be 4.8 to 13.5 hours. The most-reported half-life in the literature is 10 hours for dofetilide. From a pharmacokinetic principle, it takes 4.5 to 5 half-lives to eliminate approximately 100% of a single dose administration of any drug. Hence, it takes 4.5 to 5 half-lives to eliminate a single dose of dofetilide from the human body, which is 45 to 50 hours. Therefore, the duration of action of a single dose of dofetilide is 45 to 50 hours.


The volume of distribution: 3.1 L/kg to 4.0 L/kg, indicating that dofetilide does not get sequestered in fatty tissues.

Protein Binding

Plasma protein binding of dofetilide is 60% to 70%, is independent of plasma concentration, and is unaffected by renal impairment. The volume of distribution: 3.1 L/kg to 4.0 L/kg.


Fifty percent of dofetilide metabolism is in the liver into inactive metabolites. Dofetilide is metabolized to a small extent by the CYP3A4 isoenzyme of the cytochrome P450 system. Inhibitors of the CYP3A4 isoenzyme could increase systemic dofetilide exposure. Inhibitors of this isoenzyme (e.g., macrolide antibiotics, azole antifungal agents, protease inhibitors, serotonin reuptake inhibitors, amiodarone, cannabinoids, diltiazem, grapefruit juice, nefazodone, norfloxacin, quinine, zafirlukast) should be cautiously coadministered with Tikosyn as they can potentially increase dofetilide levels. Dofetilide is not an inhibitor of CYP3A4 nor of other cytochrome P450 isoenzymes (e.g., CYP2C9, CYP2D6) and is not expected to increase levels of drugs metabolized by CYP3A4.



Excretion of about 80% of a single dose of dofetilide is in urine with 80% as unchanged drug and the remaining 20% consisting of inactive or minimally active metabolites. Dofetilide gets eliminated in the kidney by cationic secretion. Inhibitors of renal cationic secretion are contraindicated with dofetilide. Also, drugs that get actively secreted via this route (e.g., triamterene, metformin, and amiloride) should be co-administered with care as they might increase dofetilide levels. Elimination half-life is 4.8 to 13.5 hours.

Adverse Effects

The drug has virtually no extracardiac pharmacological effects.[7]

Torsades de pointes occurred in 1% to 3% of patients in clinical trials where strict exclusion criteria (e.g., hypokalemia) were applied, and continuous ECG monitoring was used to detect marked QT prolongation in the hospital.

With therapeutic use, dofetilide may induce or worsen ventricular dysrhythmias, producing life-threatening polymorphic ventricular tachycardia. Patients with a history of torsade de pointes, prolonged QTc (greater than 440 milliseconds), hypomagnesemia, or serum potassium below 4.0 mEq/L are at increased risk of developing ventricular dysrhythmias. Other adverse effects that may occur with dofetilide administration include chest pain, nausea, abdominal pain, flatulence, diarrhea, headache, dizziness, and fatigue.

Overdose experience is limited. Effects reported include QT prolongation, torsade de pointes, and complete heart block. Most common side effects are a headache, chest pain, and dizziness.

Adverse Reactions Severe

  • Fast, pounding, or irregular heartbeat
  • Rash
  • Severe diarrhea
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Unusual sweating
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased thirst (drinking more than normal)

Adverse Reactions Mild

  • Headache
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Stomach pain
  • Back pain
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep


Dofetilide classified as FDA pregnancy category C under the recently replaced system. Therefore, pregnant patients should not receive dofetilide.

Drug Interactions

Approximately 80% of a single dose of dofetilide gets excreted in the urine, of which approximately 80% is excreted as unchanged dofetilide with the remaining 20% consisting of inactive or minimally active metabolites. Renal elimination involves both glomerular filtration and active tubular secretion (via the cation transport system, a process that can be inhibited by cimetidine, trimethoprim, prochlorperazine, megestrol, ketoconazole, and dolutegravir). In vitro studies with human liver microsomes show that CYP3A4 can metabolize dofetilide, but it has a low affinity for this isoenzyme. N-dealkylation and N-oxidation form metabolites.

The following list of drugs are known to have significant interactions with dofetilide by inhibiting renal elimination:

  • Cimetidine
  • Verapamil
  •  Ketoconazole
  • Trimethoprim alone or in combination with sulfamethoxazole
  • Prochlorperazine
  • Megestrol
  • Dolutegravir
  • Hydrochlorothiazide alone or in combination with other medicines


Dofetilide contraindications include patients with long QT syndrome. It is also contraindicated in patients who are on kidney dialysis or have renal diseases.

Dofetilide is contraindicated in patients having a low level of potassium in the blood, vomiting and/or diarrhea, sweating, loss of appetite, or decreased thirst, and whether the patients have or have ever had have heart or liver disease. Dofetilide is contraindicated in patients planning to become pregnant, pregnant, or who are breastfeeding.


Therapeutic Effects of Dofetilide

Dofetilide may induce or worsen ventricular dysrhythmias, producing life-threatening polymorphic ventricular tachycardia. Patients with a history of torsade de pointes, prolonged QTc (greater than 440 milliseconds), hypomagnesemia, or serum potassium below 4.0 mEq/L are at increased risk of developing ventricular dysrhythmias. Other adverse effects that may occur during dofetilide administration include chest pain, nausea, abdominal pain, flatulence, diarrhea, headache, dizziness, and fatigue.[8]

Central Nervous System Effects

Headache, dizziness, syncope, paresthesia, insomnia, anxiety, migraine, cerebral ischemia, facial paralysis, CVA.

Cardiovascular Effects

Ventricular fibrillation, ventricular tachycardia, torsades de pointes, AV block, chest pain, bradycardia, edema, cardiac arrest, sudden death, MI, QT prolongation, atrial fibrillation, hypertension.

Respiratory Effects

Ensuring adequate ventilation is necessary, and endotracheal intubation performed early in patients with life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias.

Additional Monitoring Requirements/Precautions

  • Gastrointestinal (GI): nausea, diarrhea, abdominal pain
  • GU: urinary tract infection
  • Hepatic: liver damage
  • Musculoskeletal: back pain, arthralgia, flaccid paralysis
  • Respiratory: respiratory tract infection, dyspnea, increased cough
  • Skin: rash
  • Other: flu-like syndrome, accidental injury, angioedema


All class III (potassium channel blockers) antiarrhythmic drugs are proarrhythmic as well. Therefore, extreme care should be taken by physicians when prescribing dofetilide for patients.

Toxic manifestations are usually an extension of the pharmacological activity (torsade de pointes). Oral dofetilide doses of 500 mcg twice daily have correlations with an increased risk of developing torsades de pointes; there is a report of sudden death in one patient. A patient received two 500 mcg dofetilide doses one hour apart and developed ventricular fibrillation and cardiac arrest 2 hours after the second dose. During a clinical study, one subject ingested twenty-eight 500 mcg capsules and received treatment with gastric lavage within 30 minutes of exposure, with reports of no adverse effects.

The most likely side effect of overdose is the excessive lengthening of the QT interval.

There is no known remedy for dofetilide overdoses; treatment of dofetilide overdose is supportive and symptomatic. Start cardiac monitoring with ECG. A charcoal slurry given within the first 15 minutes of administration is useful. Pharmacological management of dofetilide overdose and torsades de pointes may include isoproterenol, with or without cardiac pacing and magnesium sulfate; beta-blockers have also been used.

Enhancing Healthcare Team Outcomes

Dofetilide is a class III antiarrhythmic agent which is usually prescribed by the cardiologist. However, these patients are often followed and monitored by the primary care provider, cardiac nurse, and the internist. Healthcare providers who look after patients with arrhythmias must know the adverse effects of these agents; this extends to the nursing staff who will both administer the drug, as well as have the likely initial observation of any adverse effects or drug interactions.

Pharmacists should verify dosing and perform thorough medication reconciliation to rule out drug interactions and ensure proper dosing, thereby preventing potentially severe adverse effects. They should communicate any concerns they have to the physician or nursing staff so porer corrective action can take place.

All class III (potassium channel blockers) antiarrhythmic drugs are proarrhythmia as well. Therefore, extreme care should is for physicians when prescribing dofetilide for patients. 

All healthcare workers, including the cardiac nurse and pharmacist, should consult with a cardiologist before making any changes in the dosage or administration schedule.[9]

As demonstrated above, an interprofessional team approach with open lines of communication is the optimal approach to dofetilide therapy so that patients can achieve the best possible outcomes. [Level V]


[1] Ko EYJ,Carpenter CM,Gagnon DJ,Andrle AM, Pharmacist-Managed Inpatient Dofetilide Initiation Program: Description and Adherence Rate Post-Root Cause Analysis. Journal of pharmacy practice. 2019 Apr 2;     [PubMed PMID: 30935279]
[2] Miller CAS,Maron MS,Estes NAM III,,Price LL,Rowin EJ,Maron BJ,Link MS, Safety, Side Effects and Relative Efficacy of Medications for Rhythm Control of Atrial Fibrillation in Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy. The American journal of cardiology. 2019 Mar 13;     [PubMed PMID: 30922542]
[3] Wang SY,Welch TD,Sangha RS,Maloney RW,Cui Z,Kaplan AV, Dofetilide-Associated QT Prolongation: Total Body Weight Versus Adjusted or Ideal Body Weight for Dosing. Journal of cardiovascular pharmacology. 2018 Sep;     [PubMed PMID: 29985283]
[4] Osadchii OE, Effects of antiarrhythmics on the electrical restitution in perfused guinea-pig heart are critically determined by the applied cardiac pacing protocol. Experimental physiology. 2019 Apr;     [PubMed PMID: 30758086]
[5] Wolbrette DL,Hussain S,Maraj I,Naccarelli GV, A Quarter of a Century Later: What is Dofetilide's Clinical Role Today? Journal of cardiovascular pharmacology and therapeutics. 2019 Jan;     [PubMed PMID: 29940780]
[6] Kennedy SP,Iaizzo H,Fayn E,Singh D, Evaluation of the Impact of an Institution-Specific Dofetilide Initiation Protocol on Mean Hospital Length of Stay and Cost for Dofetilide Initiation. PharmacoEconomics - open. 2019 Mar;     [PubMed PMID: 29671278]
[7] Ibrahim MA,Tivakaran VS, Dofetilide 2019 Jan;     [PubMed PMID: 29083831]
[8] Subedi R,Dean RK,Dhamoon AS, Dofetilide-Induced Severe Hepatotoxicity. American journal of therapeutics. 2018 Nov/Dec;     [PubMed PMID: 29912716]
[9] Sharma SP,Turagam M,Atkins D,Bommana S,Jeffrey C,Newton D,Nydegger C,Carroll H,Gopinathannair R,Natale A,Lakkireddy D, Safety of rapid switching from amiodarone to dofetilide in atrial fibrillation patients with an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator. Heart rhythm. 2019 Jan 30;     [PubMed PMID: 30710741]