Learning About Rate-Control Medicines

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Cross section of the heart, showing its electrical system


Rate-control medicines are used if your heart beats too fast. These drugs can slow down your heart rate. They can also ease the symptoms of a fast heart rate.

When your heart beats too fast, you may feel dizzy or pass out. You may have chest pain. Also, your heart may race or pound.

These drugs can be used to treat problems such as atrial fibrillation.

There are three common types of these drugs. They are beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, and digoxin.



  • Atenolol (Tenormin)
  • Carvedilol
  • Metoprolol (Lopresor)
  • Propranolol (Inderal)

Calcium channel blockers

  • Diltiazem (Cardizem)
  • Verapamil (Isoptin, Verelan)


  • Digoxin (Lanoxin)

Possible side effects

Common side effects of beta-blockers include:

  • Feeling dizzy or light-headed.
  • Feeling tired.
  • Trouble sleeping.

Common side effects of calcium channel blockers include:

  • Stomach problems. You may be constipated. Or you may have diarrhea.
  • Feeling tired.

You may have other side effects or reactions not listed here. Check the information that comes with your medicine.

What to know about taking this medicine

  • Too much digoxin can poison you. This happens when there is too much of the drug in your body. Call your doctor or nurse call line if:
    • You lose your appetite.
    • You have stomach problems. You may feel sick to your stomach. Or you may vomit or have diarrhea.
    • Your vision changes.
    • You are confused.
    • Your heartbeat is not normal.
    • You passed out.
  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse call line if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.
  • Check with your doctor or pharmacist before you use any other medicines. These include over-the-counter medicines. Make sure your doctor knows all of the medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements you take. Taking some medicines together can cause problems.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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