The People's Perspective on Medicine

Could Digoxin Protect Your Heart Two Ways?

Research in mice shows that digoxin, a drug derived from foxglove, lowers cholesterol and eases inflammation to reduce plaque in arteries.

A very old drug derived from the foxglove plant (Digitalis purpurea) may turn out to be surprisingly effective against heart disease. (How old? you may ask. Its first mention in medical literature dates to 1785. Presumably, it was in popular use even before that publication.)

Digitalis has been used for hundreds of years to treat heart failure, a condition in which the heart no longer is able to pump blood efficiently. It is most widely prescribed under the name digoxin (Lanoxin). In recent years this drug has fallen out of favor, but it is still prescribed for an irregular heart rhythm called atrial fibrillation.

Digoxin Lowers Cholesterol in Mice:

Now, researchers have discovered that this old heart medicine has the ability to lower total cholesterol by 41 percent, LDL cholesterol by 20 percent and triglycerides by 54 percent in mice. In addition, digoxin suppresses inflammation that contributes to plaque in arteries.

These mice were genetically manipulated to lack ApoE. They were being fed a Western-style diet. That diet, mimicking our fondness for burgers, fries and milkshakes, is quite effective at inducing atherosclerosis in these laboratory animals.

Mouse research does not always carry over to benefits for human beings. Still, these results are intriguing.

The authors conclude that their “results provide convincing evidence that digoxin exerts protective effects against atherosclerosis.”

Perhaps it is time for cardiologists to take another look at the value of digoxin in treating heart disease.

British Journal of Pharmacology, online, Feb. 16, 2016

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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I want to discontinue Digoxin 0.125 mg taken daily for 10 weeks as treatment for Afib. Are there withdrawal symptoms? Doctor gave no instructions.

I was prescribed Digoxin for a-fib to lower my heart rate. After about 3 or 4 days, I realized that I had become depressed and wanted to do nothing but lie on the couch. It took me less than a week to figure out that it was the Digoxin and immediately discontinued taking it. When I complained, the NP told me that depression sometimes happens when taking this RX. Of course, I was not told this when it was prescribed. I now take no RX until I check to see what the side effects are and if there is a problem in discontinuing abruptly. Living alone, I can only imagine what would have happened had I continued taking this medicine.

Digoxin is a very toxic drug. I take it for an irregular heart beat and it affects my kidneys. Anesthesiologist become on edge also when they find out one is taking it. I have started with other natural alternatives such as magnesium Taurate, thyroid and sugar imbalances can also cause the heart beat issues. Digoxin is not a drug to be taken lightly.

To CLO6:
Thank you for your posting about digoxin and its toxicity. My father is taking digoxin for a-fib and CHF, once every other day 125mcg. It’s interesting that you were able to substitute it with magnesium taurate. Is that working for you? Were you tested for a mag deficiency?
I wish I could take my father off the digoxin but that’s a question for the cardiologist and he would never agree to it.
I also suspect that he’s low on magnesium although his serum blood is normal, however I read that is not accurate, the more accurate one is RBC magnesium test.

My biggest concern is the Pharmaceutical industry influence on doctors and media and even this website. FDA should track any financial link or tacking of doctors and hospital by them.

Interesting, I’m always interested in the subject. I was surprised to read that foxglove leaves are toxic and poison. Read this on a botanical site from Missouri with a quick google search.

I have a Medicare Advantage Plan with United Health Care (through the North Carolina State Health Plan) and I have just received a notice saying that the Plan will no longer pay for Digoxin for me unless my doctor contacts them and gets prior authorization, Digoxin is in their formulary for 2016. I have atrial fibrilation and have taken digoxin for many years with good results. My doctor monitors my digoxin levels and they have always been fine.

This is not an expensive drug and I am on the generic form. Can you shed any light on why United Health Care would not want to pay for it?

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