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A Cheap, Old Heart Drug May Help Elderly Heart Failure Patients
Date:3/11/2013

By E.J. Mundell
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, March 11 (HealthDay News) -- Everything old is new again, even in medicine, with a just-released study finding that an older, inexpensive drug may help keep heart failure patients out of the hospital.

Largely abandoned after a 1997 study found that it did not lower heart failure patients' death rates, a re-analysis of that data found that digoxin (also known as digitalis) may lower rates of 30-day hospital readmissions by more than one-third.

"If these findings can be replicated in contemporary older heart failure patients discharged from the hospital, digoxin may provide an inexpensive tool to reduce 30-day all-cause hospital readmissions," said study lead researcher Dr. Ali Ahmed, a professor of medicine and epidemiology in the divisions of geriatrics and cardiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Ahmed presented the findings Monday in San Francisco at the annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology (ACC); the results will be published simultaneously online in the American Journal of Medicine. His research was funded by the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the Veterans Administration.

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, more than 5.8 million Americans suffer from heart failure, a notoriously tough-to-treat condition in which the heart's pumping action grows gradually weaker over time.

"Heart failure is the leading reason for hospital admission and readmission for older Americans," Ahmed said. "Over a quarter of older adults hospitalized for heart failure return to the hospital within 30 days, and the majority return to the hospital for the same reasons -- heart failure symptoms."

The story he described actually began in 1997, when a trial from the Digitalis Investigation Group found that digoxin failed to reduce death rates in patients with heart failure. With newer drugs offering
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