Flecainide, a common drug used for arrhythmias patients could treat Catecholaminergic Polymorphic Ventricular Tachycardia (CPVT), a rare inherited heart disorder, Associate Professor Derek Laver from the University of Newcastle and international colleagues have found.
CVPT is a heart arrhythmia induced by emotional stress or exercise. It is estimated to cause 15 per cent of all unexplained sudden cardiac deaths in people under the age of 30.
Associate Professor Laver said CPVT was caused by too much calcium being released from calcium stores within the heart cells.
"Correct calcium flow within the heart cells is essential for the heart to function properly," he explained.
"Calcium is released from the stores into the heart cells through specific channels and we have found that Flecainide reduces the ability of these channels to release calcium, thereby directly counteracting the cause of CPVT."
Currently, beta-blockers are used to treat CPVT but 37 per cent of patients are unresponsive and 24 per cent suffer sudden cardiac death within 10 years of beginning treatment.
Implantable defibrillators are used to prevent sudden death but these cause painful electric shocks that can trigger further stress-induced arrhythmias.
"Current treatments are largely ineffective and we need new and more effective anti-arrhythmic drugs," Associate Professor Laver said.
"We have now discovered something close to an ideal drug for this rare arrhythmia disorder."
The research is published in the Nature Medicine