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Home / Drugs / Starting with B / Bretylium

Bretylium blocks the release of noradrenaline from the peripheral sympathetic nervous system, and is used in emergency medicine, cardiology, and other specialties for the acute management of ventricular tachycardia and ventricular fibrillation. The primary mode of action for bretylium is thought to be inhibition of voltage-gated K(+) channels. Recent evidence has shown that bretylium may also inhibit the Na,K-ATPase by binding to the extracellular K-site.
CategoriesAntihypertensive Agents
Anti-Arrhythmia Agents
Adrenergic Antagonists
ManufacturersAbraxis pharmaceutical products
Astrazeneca lp
Baxter healthcare corp anesthesia and critical care
Hospira inc
International medication system
Luitpold pharmaceuticals inc
Abbott laboratories pharmaceutical products div
B braun medical inc
Baxter healthcare corp
Bretylium tolsylate
Bretylium tosylate


For use in the prophylaxis and therapy of ventricular fibrillation. Also used in the treatment of life-threatening ventricular arrhythmias, such as ventricular tachycardia, that have failed to respond to adequate doses of a first-line antiarrhythmic agent, such as lidocaine.


Bretylium is a bromobenzyl quaternary ammonium compound which selectively accumulates in sympathetic ganglia and their postganglionic adrenergic neurons where it inhibits norepinephrine release by depressing adrenergic nerve terminal excitability. Bretylium also suppresses ventricular fibrillation and ventricular arrhythmias.

mechanism of action

Bretylium inhibits norepinephrine release by depressing adrenergic nerve terminal excitability. The mechanisms of the antifibrillatory and antiarrhythmic actions of bretylium are not established. In efforts to define these mechanisms, the following electrophysiologic actions of bretylium have been demonstrated in animal experiments: increase in ventricular fibrillation threshold, increase in action potential duration and effective refractory period without changes in heart rate, little effect on the rate of rise or amplitude of the cardiac action potential (Phase 0) or in resting membrane potential (Phase 4) in normal myocardium, decrease in the disparity in action potential duration between normal and infarcted regions, and increase in impulse formation and spontaneous firing rate of pacemaker tissue as well as increase ventricular conduction velocity.


Oral, mouse: LD50 = 400 mg/kg. In the presence of life-threatening arrhythmias, underdosing with bretylium probably presents a greater risk to the patient than potential overdosage. However, one case of accidental overdose has been reported in which a rapidly injected intravenous bolus of 30 mg/kg was given instead of an intended 10 mg/kg dose during an episode of ventricular tachycardia. Marked hypertension resulted, followed by protracted refractory hypotension. The patient expired 18 hours later in asystole, complicated by renal failure and aspiration pneumonitis. Bretylium serum levels were 8000 ng/mL.


No metabolites have been identified following administration in man and laboratory animals.

half life

The terminal half-life in four normal volunteers averaged 7.8±0.6 hours (range 6.9-8.1). During hemodialysis, this patient's arterial and venous bretylium concentrations declined rapidly, resulting in a half-life of 13 hours.

drug interactions

Cisapride: Increased risk of cardiotoxicity and arrhythmias

Clarithromycin: Increased risk of cardiotoxicity and arrhythmias

Erythromycin: Increased risk of cardiotoxicity and arryhthmias

Gatifloxacin: Increased risk of cardiotoxicity and arrhythmias

Grepafloxacin: Increased risk of cardiotoxicity and arrhythmias

Levofloxacin: Increased risk of cardiotoxicity and arrhythmias

Mesoridazine: Increased risk of cardiotoxicity and arrhythmias

Moxifloxacin: Increased risk of cardiotoxicity and arrhythmias

Ranolazine: Possible additive effect on QT prolongation

Telithromycin: Increased risk of cardiotoxicity and arrhythmias

Thioridazine: Increased risk of cardiotoxicity and arrhythmias