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Kentucky study finds common drug increases deaths in atrial fibrillation patients
Date:11/27/2012

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Nov. 27, 2012) -- Digoxin, a drug widely used to treat heart disease, increases the possibility of death when used by patients with a common heart rhythm problem − atrial fibrillation (AF), according to new study findings by University of Kentucky researchers. The results have been published in the prestigious European Heart Journal, and raises serious concerns about the expansive use of this long-standing heart medication in patients with AF.

UK researchers led by Dr. Samy Claude Elayi, associate professor of medicine at UK HealthCare's Gill Heart Institute, analyzed data from 4,060 AF patients enrolled in the landmark Atrial Fibrillation Follow-up Investigation of Rhythm Management (AFFIRM) trial. This analysis was intended to determine the relationship between digoxin and deaths in this group of patients with atrial fibrillation, and whether digoxin was directly responsible for some deaths.

"These findings raise important concerns about the safety of digoxin, one of the oldest and most controversial heart drugs," said Dr. Steven E. Nissen, chair of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic. "Although considered obsolete by some authorities, digoxin is still widely used. A thorough review by the FDA is warranted to determine whether regulatory action is needed, including stronger warnings about the use of digoxin in patients with atrial fibrillation. "

Digoxin is extracted from the foxglove plant and it helps the heart beat more strongly, and at a slower heart rate. It is commonly used in AF patients and in patients with heart failure. However, it can be problematic to use successfully as there is a narrow dose range at which it is effective, and beyond which it can be dangerous.

Though digoxin has been used by physicians treating AF for decades, until now, there has been limited evidence demonstrating the effect of digoxin in patients with this condition. "Digoxin in AF patients has hardl
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Contact: Jodi Whitaker
jodi.whitaker@uky.edu
859-257-5307
University of Kentucky
Source:Eurekalert

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