Thursday, December 17, 2009

Don't forget dig just yet

Digoxin is becoming a forgotten drug in heart failure. Although it doesn't decrease mortality it does reduce readmissions, the most vexing problem in heart failure. A thought provoking editorial in JAMA revisits digoxin and says:

What would be an ideal agent for treatment of acute heart failure syndromes? Such a drug should (1) improve hemodynamics without adversely affecting heart rate or blood pressure or increasing myocardial oxygen demand and without reducing coronary perfusion; (2) prevent further neurohormonal activation, favorably modulate the existing neurohormonal milieu, or both; (3) be applicable in the context of known evidence-based therapies, such as ACE inhibitors and β-blockers; (4) help control ventricular rate in atrial fibrillation; (5) have a formulation for intravenous use during the acute phase of heart failure and an oral formulation for long-term use; (6) importantly, improve symptoms and signs, decrease rehospitalization rate, improve survival, or all 3; and (7) be affordable for the millions of patients with heart failure throughout the world. This last point is particularly important because many patients with heart failure cannot afford newer, much more expensive drugs.

Digoxin has many of these properties.

Digoxin's much respected toxicity is an extension of known pharmacological effects and can be avoided by meticulous attention to dosing.

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