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Cardiac arrhythmias constitute a major public health problem. Pharmacological intervention remains mainstay to their clinical management. This, in turn, depends upon systematic drug classification schemes relating their molecular, cellular, and systems effects to clinical indications and therapeutic actions. This approach was first pioneered in the 1960s Vaughan-Williams classification. Subsequent progress in cardiac electrophysiological understanding led to a lag between the fundamental science and its clinical translation, partly addressed by The working group of the European Society of Cardiology (1991), which, however, did not emerge with formal classifications. We here utilize the recent Revised Oxford Classification Scheme to review antiarrhythmic drug pharmacology. We survey drugs and therapeutic targets offered by the more recently characterized ion channels, transporters, receptors, intracellular Ca2+ handling, and cell signaling molecules. These are organized into their strategic roles in cardiac electrophysiological function. Following analysis of the arrhythmic process itself, we consider (a) pharmacological agents directly targeting membrane function, particularly the Na+ and K+ ion channels underlying depolarizing and repolarizing events in the cardiac action potential. (b) We also consider agents that modify autonomic activity that, in turn, affects both the membrane and (c) the Ca2+ homeostatic and excitation-contraction coupling processes linking membrane excitation to contractile activation. Finally, we consider (d) drugs acting on more upstream energetic and structural remodeling processes currently the subject of clinical trials. Such systematic correlations of drug actions and arrhythmic mechanisms at different molecular to systems levels of cardiac function will facilitate current and future antiarrhythmic therapy.

Original publication




Journal article


J Cardiovasc Electrophysiol

Publication Date





579 - 592


Modernized Oxford Classification, Vaughan-Williams, antiarrhythmic drugs, cardiac arrhythmias, sicilian gambit, Action Potentials, Animals, Anti-Arrhythmia Agents, Arrhythmias, Cardiac, Heart Conduction System, Heart Rate, Humans, Molecular Targeted Therapy, Myocardial Contraction, Treatment Outcome, Ventricular Function, Ventricular Remodeling