For years, people have turned to digoxin to control a particular kind of abnormal heart rhythm called atrial fibrillation. A new study shows that patients using digoxin for this condition may be putting their lives at risk.
Digoxin, often prescribed to older patients, is used to treat heart failure as well. When the drug is ingested, it slows irregular heartbeats and strengthens heart contractions. Taking the wrong dosage of digoxin could be lethal, and over the years has led to increased safety concerns.
The study, published by The Journal of the American College of Cardiology, monitored approximately 120,000 patients from 2003 to 2008. Nearly all were taking the medicine for their recently diagnosed atrial fibrillation, which is known to cause severe strokes. Findings revealed that those who used digoxin compared to an alternative treatment increased their risk of dying by roughly 20 percent. However, this research shows only a relationship between high mortality rates and digoxin; the drug has not been proven to be the cause of the increased death risk.
The major takeaway from the study is that digoxin bears potential safety risks, especially for those suffering from atrial fibrillation. The good news is that there are several other treatment options available, including beta and calcium channel blockers.
Although usage of digoxin on patients may need to become more selective, the drug still has value. Individuals should consider for themselves if the benefits outweigh the possible risks. Patients are also being advised to speak with their cardiologist before stopping or changing their current medication.
All too often, drugs are placed on the market without being properly inspected for safety risks. When medicine is unsafe for consumers, manufacturers may be held responsible. If you or a loved one were harmed by a dangerous drug, you may have a case.
“Heart Medication Digoxin Linked to Higher Risk of Death for Some.” U.S. News. August 11, 2014.