Betapace Warnings and Precautions
Some warnings and precautions to be aware of prior to taking Betapace include the following:
- Like other arrhythmia medications, Betapace may actually increase the risk of life-threatening arrhythmias. For this reason, it should be used only if absolutely necessary.
- Your kidney function must be measured (using a simple blood test) before you start this medication. The kidneys remove Betapace from the body, and the starting dosage will be calculated based on your kidney function.
- Once you begin taking this medicine, your heart must be continuously monitored with an electrocardiogram (ECG) until three days after you have reached your steady Betapace dosage. This means you must stay in a hospital or other facility that is able to provide the ECG monitoring, measure your kidney function, and handle any emergencies that arise.
- Low electrolytes may increase the risk of dangerous arrhythmias due to Betapace. Tell your healthcare provider if you have severe or prolonged diarrhea while taking the drug, since such problems may cause low electrolytes.
- As with all beta blockers, you should not abruptly stop taking Betapace, as serious problems (including heart attacks) may result. Your healthcare provider will advise you about how to safely stop taking this medication. People are usually recommended to slowly reduce the dose over a period of one to two weeks, with careful monitoring, and with a minimum of physical activity during this time. Let your healthcare provider know if you develop chest pain or any other problems while stopping treatment.
- Beta blockers can worsen breathing problems, like asthma or COPD. If you have breathing problems, check with your healthcare provider before taking Betapace.
- Like all beta blockers, Betapace can worsen heart failure in some situations. However, beta blockers are also useful for the treatment of heart failure. If you have heart failure, your healthcare provider may need to monitor you closely while you take this drug. Let your healthcare provider know immediately if your heart failure symptoms seem to become worse.
- If you will be having surgery, make sure your surgeon and anesthesiologist know you take Betapace, as it may affect the choice of medications used during the procedure.
- Beta blockers can mask some of the symptoms of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), particularly the "racing heart" feeling. This can cause serious problems for people with diabetes, who need to be able to sense that they have low blood sugar in order to correct it before it becomes life-threatening.
- Beta blockers can mask some of the symptoms of an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism). Stopping Betapace suddenly could cause symptoms of a "thyroid storm" (a sudden and severe worsening of hyperthyroidism symptoms).
- Betapace can potentially interact with many other medications (see Betapace Interactions).
- If you have an anaphylactic allergy (the type that affects the entire body and often interferes with breathing), Betapace may make you more sensitive to the allergen and may make the usual treatments (such as epinephrine or an EpiPen®) less effective.
- Betapace is considered a pregnancy Category B medication. This means that it might be safe to take during pregnancy, although the full risks are not currently known (see Sotalol and Pregnancy).
- Betapace passes through breast milk in humans. Therefore, if you are breastfeeding or plan to start, discuss this with your healthcare provider prior to taking the drug (see Sotalol and Breastfeeding).