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Efficacy and Safety of Vernakalant in Recent-Onset Atrial Fibrillation After the European Medicines Agency Approval: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis


Address for correspondence: Paolo Iacomini, MD, Department of Emergency Medicine, Catholic University of the Sacred Heart Largo F. Vito 1, 00168, Rome, Italy; e-mail:


Vernakalant is an emergent antiarrhythmic drug that, in preclinical studies, has demonstrated high efficacy in restoring sinus rhythm and safety in patients with rapid recent-onset atrial fibrillation. The aim of this work was to evaluate the efficacy and safety of vernakalant for cardioversion of recent-onset atrial fibrillation. PubMed, EMBASE, Clinical Trials Registry, and European Medicines Agency public reports were searched for randomized clinical trials, until May 2011, of vernakalant compared with controls (placebo/other antiarrhythmic drug) in enrolled patients with high ventricular rate atrial fibrillation. Five randomized trials that met inclusion criteria enrolled a total of 1099 patients. Among these, 810 had recent-onset atrial fibrillation. When compared with controls (placebo/other oral antiarrhythmic drugs), vernakalant was associated with a significant increase in cardioversion within 90 minutes from drug infusion (relative risk, 8.4; 95% confidence interval, 4.4–16.3; P < .00001). Compared with controls, vernakalant was not associated with a significant difference in serious adverse events (relative risk, 0.9; 95% confidence interval, 0.6–1.4; P = .64). The authors conclude that compared with controls, vernakalant is effective and safe for rapidly converting recent-onset atrial fibrillation. Questions remain surrounding safety because 1 unpublished trial was discontinued for this reason. Further cost-effective analysis and comparison with other antiarrhythmic agents, such as class I antiarrhythmic agents, should be investigated, especially in the emergency department.