Digoxin: A heart friend or foe..



Digoxin: A Heart Friend or Foe.. 

Digoxin, a medication derived from the foxglove plant is commonly used in controlling heart rate in various cardiac rhythm disorders or arrhythmias, most commonly atrial fibrillation and other cardiac diseases including heart failure.  Atrial fibrillation currently affects approximately 5 million Americans, of which 1 in 5 are prescribed Digoxin.


Though considered by most physicians as first line therapy for such conditions a recent meta analysis of 19 studies in which 112,000 patients were on Digoxin out of 500,000 patients with atrial fibrillation, suggested alternative agents be moved to first line therapy and digoxin be downgraded due to findings of a 27% increased mortality associated with digoxin in the treatment of Atrial Fibrillation. Digoxin toxicity due to variations in digoxin intake and level contribute to the mortality. Those on dialysis and in renal failure were at a much  higher risk of mortality (60% more) . Unclear how Digoxin increases mortality, previous studies have suggested that digoxin may increase the risk of clots.


There are other medications that can be used to control heart rate and rhythm and should be discussed with your cardiologist. Certain surgical and catheter based procedures can also be helpful in curing Atrial Fibrillation. Long term anticoagulation is also considered standard therapy to prevent strokes and other clot formation related embolic events.


If you or a loved one suffers from atrial fibrillation and is taking digoxin for heart rate control, consider discussing other safer options with your physicians and cardiologist.