• Antiarrhythmic drugs have been marketed in the United States for more than three decades. However, little is known about the prevalence of use of these drugs. Using data from the National Prescription Audit, we examined trends in outpatient use of oral antiarrhythmic agent types 1 and 3 from 1970 through 1986. Using the National Disease and Therapeutic Index, we assessed prescribing physician specialty and general demographic and clinical characteristics of recipients. We adjusted the numbers of prescriptions dispensed for broad changes in the US population demographics over the 17-year period. From 1970 through 1986 the number of antiarrhythmic agent prescriptions dispensed increased by 200%, from 3.8 million to 11.5 million. This increase is greater than that expected due to changes in size of the US population, estimated changes in prevalence of heart disease, or estimated changes in the proportion of patients with heart disease who have arrhythmias. The weight of evidence suggests that more persons were receiving antiarrhythmic agents in 1986 than in 1970. Physicians probably recognized and/or treated arrhythmias more frequently in 1986 than in 1970.
(Arch Intern Med. 1989;149:1524-1527)