Digoxin use associated with higher risk of death for patients diagnosed with heart failure

September 20, 2013

Digoxin, a drug commonly used to treat heart conditions, was associated with a 72 percent higher rate of death among adults with newly diagnosed systolic heart failure, according to a Kaiser Permanente study that appears in the current online issue of Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

Digoxin is a drug derived from digitalis, a plant that has been used for more than 200 years to treat heart failure.

"These findings suggest that the use of should be reevaluated for the treatment of systolic heart failure in contemporary clinical practice" said Alan S. Go, MD, senior author of the study and research scientist at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research.

The results of this study contrast with the findings of a by the Digitalis Investigation Group conducted between 1991 and 1993, which showed that digoxin did not lower mortality among therapy patients with systolic heart failure, or, a malfunction in the way the of the heart pumps blood. Following the group's study, professional societies issued clinical guidelines endorsing the use of digoxin for patients with .

The current study was conducted among 2,891 adults within Kaiser Permanente in Northern California who had newly diagnosed systolic heart failure between 2006 and 2008 and no prior digoxin use. Eighteen percent of the participants initiated digoxin during the study period.

Researchers followed the patients through December 31, 2010, to evaluate the effectiveness and safety of digoxin therapy. They found that digoxin use was associated with higher mortality but no significant difference in the risk of heart failure hospitalization.

There were a total of 801 deaths (737 off digoxin and 64 on digoxin). After adjustment for potential confounders, digoxin use was associated with a 72 percent higher relative rate of death.

There were 1,723 hospitalizations for heart failure overall (1,596 off digoxin, 127 on digoxin). However, after adjustment for potential confounders, digoxin use was not significantly associated with hospitalization for heart failure.

"Our community-based study population is more likely to represent patients with systolic heart failure in the modern era with regard to pathogenesis and treatment patterns," Dr. Go said. "Therefore, our results may more accurately represent the outcomes expected with digoxin for patients with systolic in typical present-day practices. As with all medication, treatment, or therapy plans, care decisions should always be made by physicians and their patients working together, with the patient's particular care needs and goals in mind."

Explore further: Ancient heart drug activates body's own protective mechanisms in blood vessels

Related Stories

New study finds digoxin safe despite recent reports

April 16, 2013

A study published today in the European Heart Journal found no evidence that digoxin increases mortality in patients with atrial fibrillation (AF), the opposite of results just published by another group in the same journal ...

Recommended for you

Artificial heart design features porous plastic foam

October 2, 2015

Artificial hearts with multiple moving parts increase the chance of failure; scientists have worked up a device which is a single piece. No less interesting is the material they used; the team is taking a page out of soft ...

What powers the pumping heart?

September 25, 2015

Researchers at the Ted Rogers Centre for Heart Research have uncovered a treasure trove of proteins, which hold answers about how our heart pumps—a phenomenon known as contractility.

Sticky gel helps stem cells heal rat hearts

September 24, 2015

A sticky, protein-rich gel created by Johns Hopkins researchers appears to help stem cells stay on or in rat hearts and restore their metabolism after transplantation, improving cardiac function after simulated heart attacks, ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.